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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - April 8, 2002: Tobacco in Developing Countries - 2002-04-05

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Tobacco smoking has long been considered an international health problem, especially in developing countries. Health experts estimate that tobacco use causes diseases that kill three-million people each year. Ninety percent of smokers begin before age twenty-one. Sixty percent become smokers by age fourteen. Based on these numbers, an international organization of anti-tobacco groups has released new evidence against the tobacco industry.

The public activist organization Infact and several members of the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals wrote the report. It examines actions by the tobacco industry around the world. The study says that tobacco companies spend huge amounts of money fighting anti-smoking legislation in developing countries. It says tobacco companies take serious steps to make smoking as low-cost as possible. And it says tobacco companies target young people.

For example, the report says tobacco companies give free cigarettes to young people at music shows, dance centers and even in some schools. Tobacco companies also give away clothes or other products showing their signs or logos. The effect of these actions is an increase in young smokers. The report says the total number of young smokers has increased by more than seventy percent in developing countries during the last twenty-five years.

Anti-smoking activists also say tobacco companies try to market their products to as many people as possible. For example, in India, cigarettes are sold individually or in boxes of two or five. The price of these smaller boxes is much less than a full box of twenty cigarettes. This makes it much easier for young people to get cigarettes.

The report comes as the World Health Organization begins new talks on an agreement seeking to limit the use of tobacco. The document is called the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Officials hope to have it finished by next year.

The agreement will deal with tobacco marketing campaigns, the illegal transport of tobacco, financial support for the tobacco industry and other issues.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.