U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said Friday he was hopeful the United States would ratify a global treaty this year to limit the impact of smoking in public places.
Forty nations must ratify the World Health Organization accord, which U.S. officials signed Monday, for it to take effect. Anti-tobacco groups urged the United States this week to quickly submit the agreement to the Senate for ratification.
“Anything can happen in an election year, but I’m hopeful we can get this treaty to pass on a bipartisan basis - this year,” Thompson told Reuters in Paris, where he met health ministers at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Anti-smoking groups are concerned the United States will drag its feet on ratifying the treaty, which would also ban tobacco advertising and increase the size of warning labels on cigarette packages and other tobacco products.
In fact, a non-profit corporate watchdog, said this week the Bush administration’s ties to tobacco companies - including Bush adviser Karl Rove’s former role as a Phillip Morris consultant - could thwart ratification.
U.S. officials say the tobacco pact includes a number of efforts the government has already undertaken, including efforts to prevent tobacco smuggling.
Smoking has been linked to lung cancer, emphysema and other respiratory disorders. Those who do not smoke but inhale it secondhand can also develop cancer and asthma.
According to WHO estimates, current smoking trends could lead to roughly 10 million deaths worldwide each year by 2025.
Revision date: June 11, 2011
Last revised: by Amalia K. Gagarina, M.S., R.D.