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WHO Conference Draws Up No Smoking Bill of Rights

November 12, 1988

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ European health officials published a statement of non-smokers’ rights Friday that will be submitted to governments as part of a campaign against tobacco.

The draft document, which recognizes the right to a smoke-free environment in public areas and at work, was part of a report presented at the end of the first European conference on tobacco policy.

Richard Peto of Oxford University in England said tobacco kills 500,000 Europeans a year and 100 million alive today will die if current smoking patterns continue.

″What is needed is to inform the governments,″ he said. ″An increasing number of people concerned, even at the ministerial level, are beginning to realize these are real deaths of real people.″

A final version of the document is to be distributed early next year by the World Health Organization, which joined Spain’s Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs in sponsoring the Madrid conference.

Officials from six countries said their governments would consider adopting the document in combination with higher tobacco taxes and bans on tobacco advertising.

They included three health ministers - Julian Garcia Vargas of Spain, Philippe Busquin of Belgium and Tove S. Gerhardsen of Norway - and lower-level officials from Italy, France and Portugal.

All said they agreed with much of the statement, including the rights to air ″free from tobacco smoke″ in enclosed public places and transport, help for smokers to break the habit and information on ″the unparalleled health risks of tobacco use.″

Agreement was not universal on banning tobacco at places of work and eliminating all advertising.

Garcia Vargas said: ″We cannot have laws for everything. It is better to persuade.″

Ms. Gerhardsen said legislation to increase the price of tobacco products, ban advertising and create smoke-free environments have been essential in reducing Norway’s consumption of tobacco to one of the lowest in Europe.

″The law is necessary because there will always be people who don’t cooperate with agreements,″ she said.

Spain passed a law this year that puts restrictions on smoking and negotiated an agreement with tobacco companies to limit advertising. Statistics indicate Spain is second only to Greece in per capita consumption of tobacco in Europe.

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