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World Medical Association gets tough

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Craven A advertising on a building in East London, Trinidad and Tobago.

The World Medical Association (WMA), the international alliance of national medical associations, has toughened its already strong stance against tobacco. At the 49th WMA General Assembly last November in Hamburg, Germany, delegates amended the WMA Statement on Health Hazards of Tobacco Products, first adopted by the 40th assembly in 1988. The original version urged national medical associations to adopt a policy about tobacco, and urged them and their members to campaign against it in various ways, advocating that a model tobacco control policy be adopted. The amended version also spells out details of a model policy, but starts with a new, detailed preamble. This not only sets out the scale of present and predicted worldwide mortality from tobacco, but also focuses on the tobacco industry’s repeated denials of the harmfulness of its products, and its fondness for supporting scientific research and “the preparation of reports”, whose meaning will be instantly recognisable to all who have had to counter these wretched travesties in the media.

The WMA statement adds that “By being involved in such activities, individual researchers and/or their organisations give the tobacco industry an appearance of credibility even in cases where the industry is not able to use the results directly in its marketing. Such involvement also raises major conflicts of interest with the goals of health promotion.” This stance will be helpful to organisations trying to persuade universities and other academic and research bodies from taking tobacco money, such as the Cancer Research Campaign of the United Kingdom, whose draft code of practice on tobacco funding of research is currently circulating among British academic institutions.

For a copy of the statement, contact the World Medical Association, 28 Avenue des Alpes, 01210 Ferney-Voltaire, France. Tel: +33 4 50 40 75 75; fax: +33 4 50 40 59 37.

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