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In 1951, British researchers Richard Doll and Austin Bradford Hill began a study that provided convincing evidence that the great majority of lung cancers were caused by smoking. The subjects of their study were some 40 000 British doctors. Now, 50 years after that study, there is another historic opportunity for doctors to make use of their unique position.
In the British Medical Association publication Tobacco under the microscope, doctors examine the evidence, identify best practice, and set out their manifesto for global tobacco control. Some 30 eminent doctors from around the world contributed to the manifesto, and umbrella medical associations whose member organisations represent more than 10 million doctors in 117 countries have pledged their support to it. Based on the evidence, it focuses on the five measures that have proved most effective in the battle to curb deaths from smoking, and which doctors would like to see included in the convention: clear and informative pack health warnings; an end to misleading claims that some cigarettes are safer than others; increases in the price of tobacco through taxation; the protection of non-smokers from tobacco smoke; and an end to all forms of tobacco advertising.
Speaking at the launch of the manifesto, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, director general of the World Health Organization, reiterated the important role of doctors in tobacco control. “Behind this manifesto lies an enormous amount of evidence, of science and of the personal experience of millions of doctors who have watched their patients get ill and die from their tobacco addiction. When a physician speaks, most people take notice. So should policymakers.”
By visiting the manifesto website (www.doctorsmanifesto.org) doctors and medical associations can sign up to the manifesto and contribute a statement to the web based document. In addition, online postcards can be sent on the key issues of tobacco control.