FIJI HEALTH MINISTRY ATTACKS TOBACCO COMPANY'S ADVERTISEMENTS

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (November 1, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---Fiji's Ministry of Health has accused British American Tobacco Fiji of misleading the public in an advertisement concerning the ministry’s concerns about the risks associated with smoking.

According to a Ministry of Health press statement, the advertisement states: "British American Tobacco Fiji believes that it has a responsibility, along with Government and the public health community, to reinforce and update the public’s knowledge of the risks of smoking."

The Ministry of Health said it categorically denied working with British American Tobacco Fiji.

It said it does not and will not compromise its position by working hand in hand with any tobacco company under any circumstances.

The Health Ministry said it does not believe the advertisement is a sincere attempt to discourage people from smoking and is only seeking innocence by association.

The second paragraph of the advertisement states: "Common sense suggests that to reduce their exposure to risk, smokers can smoke fewer cigarettes, smoke light cigarettes and quit sooner."

The ministry said this clearly states that smokers can smoke fewer cigarettes, smoke light cigarettes and does not inform the public about the harmful effects of smoking and/or tobacco use.

The ministry said it believes that there is no safe level of smoking.

According to the Ministry of Health, the tobacco company said that smoking is only for "informed adults." But it said the advertisements indirectly promote and encourage the use of tobacco product by adults without informing them of the risks, particularly of addiction.

The last sentence of the advertisement says that the industry "believes that the only way to be certain of avoiding the risk is not to smoke."

The Health Ministry said if the industry really believed this they would stop producing cigarettes and other tobacco products and start promoting health.

During the recent Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) convention in Papua New Guinea, the World Health Organization urged the news media to be skeptical interpreters when dealing with information affecting the health and well being of children.

WHO representative Dr. Ruth Stark told news media leaders at the meeting in Madang that they could help protect children by carefully examining information from industries such as tobacco.

Dr. Stark said messages from the tobacco industry should be clearly examined.

"The media should help to determine what the real messages are that they are giving," she said, adding that prevent-smoking campaigns stated that smoking was an adult thing to do.

Dr. Stark said young people want to be adults and do adult things, and that the campaigns simply encouraged smoking.

"We need to give young people the clear messages about deadly cigarette smoking," she said.

She told radio, TV, print and online media executives and senior journalists that tobacco was already the biggest cause of premature death worldwide.

"Smoking kills people. Just exposure to tobacco smoke is harmful to children," she said.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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