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WHO welcomes smoking ban at UN headquarters

Statement
6 November 2008

WHO welcomes the consensus decision of the United Nations General Assembly to ban smoking and tobacco sales at UN headquarters in New York.

"The General Assembly deserves congratulations for protecting the health of delegates, employees and visitors," said WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. "Fewer of them will sicken and die prematurely as a result of today's action."

The resolution passed by the General Assembly on 3 November 2008 imposes "a complete ban" on indoor smoking and tobacco sales.

In addition, the resolution carries the General Assembly's recommendation that smoking be banned at "all United Nations indoors premises, including regional and country offices throughout the United Nations system", and that tobacco sales be banned at "all United Nations premises".

Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death, killing 5.4 million people per year from lung cancer, heart disease and other diseases, according to the WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008, which was released in February.

There is no safe level of second-hand smoke, the report says, citing research by the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer, the Surgeon General of the United States of America, the United Kingdom Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health, and the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

"By banning smoking and the sale of tobacco products on UN premises, the Member States set a tremendous example," Dr Chan said. "Uruguay -- the first smoke-free country in the Americas -- deserves particular praise for sponsoring the smoke-free resolution and working long and diligently to ensure its passage."

The resolution is consistent with Article 8 of the WHO FCTC, which requires Parties to the Convention to protect their populations from tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces and other indoor public places. The treaty entered into force in 2005 and currently has 160 Parties.

Dr Chan also praised the United Nations Ad Hoc Interagency Task Force on Tobacco Control, which the Secretary-General established in 1999 and which formally recommended in 2006 and 2008 that the United Nations be smoke-free.

For more information contact:

Timothy A. O'Leary
Communications Officer
Tobacco Free Initiative
WHO, Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 5539
Mobile: +41 79 516 5601
E-mail: olearyt@who.int

Stéfanie Laniel
Communications Officer
Tobacco Free Initiative
WHO, Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 1018
Mobile: +41 79 475 5524
E-mail: laniels@who.int

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