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Vilified for tackling tobacco

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 27 May 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:1482
  1. Annabel Ferriman
  1. BMJ

    An organisation dedicated to “imposing its will” on people across the world and “undermining property rights” met in Switzerland last week. It was criticised in the Wall Street Journal Europe as undermining individual choice and in the Scotsman as “leading to a version of 1984.” So what was the name of this sinister body? Was it the Mafia? Or the Freemasons? Or a new socialist terrorist organisation dedicated to the overthrow of the capitalist system? No. As it turns out, it was the World Health Assembly, which was meeting in Geneva.

    Why did the assembly (the annual general meeting of all the member states of the World Health Organization) provoke such ferocious criticism, prompting a leader in the Times, a long feature in the Wall Street Journal Europe, and a half page article in the Scotsman? Its crime, according to these distinguished newspapers, was that it had decided to “take on” the tobacco industry, instead of confining its activities to the legitimate task of combating malaria, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases.

    It would be …

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