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Health experts to meet in Finland for anti-tobacco pow-wow


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HELSINKI, July 31 (AFP) - Some 2,000 scientists, lobbyists and decision-makers hailing from over 100 countries will gather here on Sunday for an annual convention on the health hazards of smoking, officials said.

The 12th World Conference on Tobacco or Health, taking place under the banner of Global Action for a Tobacco Free Future, is set to end on August 8.

A key speaker at Sunday's opening ceremony is Lee Jong-wook, the new director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), which is lobbying for the global ratification of its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

The convention aims to curb sales of tobacco in a bid to cut the millions of deaths from smoking, as well as limiting the advertising and marketing of cigarettes and other tobacco products. So far 47 countries have signed it.

The EU commissioner for health and consumer affairs, David Byrne, is also set to address the opening.

Among the other participants of the conference are Humberto Costa, Brazil's health minister, and his South African counterpart, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, as well as a host of leading scientists from around the world.

Central in their debates will be the challenge to get the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control implemented, how to combat the massive problem of nicotine addiction, culture and religion in tobacco control, and youth and tobacco.

WHO estimates that about 4.9 million people die each year from smoking and the number of deaths is set to grow to about 10 million per year by 2030 if consumption is unchecked.

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COPYRIGHT 2003 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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