WHO experts call for protection for 700 million children exposed to passive smoking

Wednesday 16 June 1999
ASH/ Press releases/

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Press Release
Wed. 16th June 1999 Embargo midday
(WHO has same embargo)

Action on Smoking
and Health

WHO experts call for protection for 700million children exposed to passive smoking

A new WHO report released today [1] claims that almost half the world’s children (700million) are exposed to tobacco smoke by the 1.2 billion adults that smoke. WHO is callingfor new legislation to protect children in public places such as schools, nurseries, andleisure facilities used by kids. The report summarises evidence showing that passivesmoking is a cause of pneumonia and bronchitis, coughing and wheezing, asthma attacks,middle ear infection, cot death, and possibly cardiovascular and neurobiologicalimpairment in children.

To make its case for action, the WHO highlights the UN Convention on the Rights of theChild – Articles 6 and 24 [attached] commit signatories to protect children’s health.

Clive Bates, Director of ASH, said:<fontface=”new times=”” roman,=”” times”=”” size=”3″> “It is easy to make lofty declarations aboutchildren’s health at the UN, but very little has been done to ensure that the places thatkids visit are not filled with adults’ tobacco smoke.

However, much of the exposure to smoke is in the home and it is widely recognised thatlegislation does not really have a role. 47% of UK children live in a smoking household.But ASH believes that the more adults realise the dangers, the more they will want toreduce children’s exposure by smoking only in certain rooms, outside or by quittingaltogether.

Clive Bates of ASH said:<fontface=”new times=”” roman,=”” times”=”” size=”3″> “Even though most parents love their kidsmore than anything else in the world, if they smoke near them they could be inflictingreally serious damage. We hope that parents will hear about these findings and make surethey keep their kids and their cigarette smoke apart. The government must help bypublicising the dangers and getting doctors, social workers, and everybody in the caringprofessions to take an active role.”

ASH believes this report will make an importantimpact on smoking world-wide. ASH’s International Programme Manager, Emma Must said:<fontsize=”3″> “By giving clear authoritative guidance, the WHO will help us deal with theworld-wide deluge of tobacco industry disinformation about passive smoking. There arealready too many threats to children’s health in developing countries, and passive smokingis a totally unnecessary additional burden faced by 700 million kids world-wide.”

[1] At 12:00 at the Healthy Planet Forum in Westminster Central Hall, Storey’s Gate,London, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director General of the World Health Organisationlaunches: International Consultation on Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Child Health.

The main text of the report is on the ASH site at <ahref=”http: www.ash.org.uk=”” papers=”” who-ets.html”=””>www.ash.org.uk/papers/who-ets.html


Extracts from the UN Convention on theRights of the Child (1989)

Article 6 <fontface=”arial, sans-serif”=”” size=”2″>

  1. States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.
  2. States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.

Article 24 <fontface=”arial, sans-serif”=”” size=”2″>

  1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.
  2. States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures:
  1. To diminish infant and child mortality;
  2. To ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care to all children with emphasis on the development of primary health care;
  3. To combat disease and malnutrition including within the framework of primary health care, through inter alia the application of readily available technology and through the provision of adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking water, taking into consideration the dangers and risks of environmental pollution;
  4. To ensure appropriate pre-natal and post-natal health care for mothers;
  5. To ensure that all segments of society, in particular parents and children, are informed, have access to education and are supported in the use of basic knowledge of child health and nutrition, the advantages of breast-feeding, hygiene and environmental sanitation and the prevention of accidents;
  6. To develop preventive health care, guidance for parents and family planning education and services.
  1. States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practises prejudicial to the health of children.
  2. States Parties undertake to promote and encourage international cooperation with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the right recognized in the present article. In this regard, particular account shall be taken of the needs of developing countries.


Full text is at: www.unicef.org/crc



Contact Clive Bates, ASH Director (020) 7739 5902
Emma Must (020) 7739 5902 (w) 0171 738 6506 (h)

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