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Dumping health risks on developing nations.

"While smoking is declining and exercise and healthy nutrition habits are improving in the developing world, cigarette manufacturers, to name one group, are licking their corporate chops as they successfully replace shrinking domestic markets with increased sales in Third World countries," asserts John W. Farquhar, professor of medicine and director of the Stanford University Center for Research in Disease Prevention. "It's clear that wellness is becoming a global problem. Industrialized countries have a social obligation to ensure that they are not preying on the rest of the world. It's important that countries such as the United States and Canada not only share the gains of health promotion activities, but refrain from literally exporting health problems. There is a sad irony that economic improvement in the Third World also frees some income for unproductive purchases, such as tobacco or alcohol."

In May, 1992, the International Heart Health Conference issued the Victoria Declaration, a 44-page global blueprint for reducing health risks. It included recommendations for governments to adopt legislation that would end advertising and promotion of tobacco products, seek a multinational ban on tobacco exports, and create a tobacco superfund in each country--funded by a 10% tobacco sales tax--to be used for creation of a smoke-free society.

"While smoking has slowly but steadily declined in the United States since the 1964 Surgeon General's Report, the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that smoking in Third World countries has increased steadily." WHO estimates that 550,000,000 of the 5,500,000,000 people in the world will die prematurely of smoking and its effects.

Farquhar indicates that the consequences of smoking, obesity, drug abuse, or pollution are economically devastating because they prevent nations from achieving full productivity. It also is less expensive to prevent--rather than eliminate--health risks before they gain full flower. "We hope that the Victoria Declaration will serve for responsible politicians as a blueprint which could be used as a framework for legislative action to achieve positive health programs. Politically, morally, and educationally, the thrust of future programs must be to ensure that Third World countries receive the support they need to [create] programs to strive toward the same ends finally starting to be realized in the developed world--and to ensure that the developed world not look at emerging nations as a dumping ground for products such as tobacco, which are becoming less marketable in industrialized societies."
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Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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