World Health Organization accuses Phillip Morris of trying to 'sabotage' proposed EU measure to restrict tobacco industry marketing toward women, youth by delaying vote until after European Council presidency shifts to Greece in January

NEW DELHI , September 11, 2013 () – The World Health Organisation chief has accused tobacco giant Philip Morris of seeking to "sabotage" a proposed EU measure to clamp down on tobacco industry marketing aimed at women and youngsters.

The planned Tobacco Products Directive, or TPD, is a key piece of EU legislation that health campaigners say would save lives by including large pictorial health warnings on tobacco products, among other measures.

WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan, speaking to an anti-tobacco conference on Wednesday in New Delhi, said a "massive army" of lobbyists has been deployed to block the bill's passage.

"The most recent example concerns efforts on the part of Philip Morris to sabotage the vote on a strong European directive on tobacco," Chan told the conference, attended by delegates from more than 55 countries.

She said the lobbyists were seeking to delay passage until the rotating European Council presidency moves to Greece from Lithuania in January.

This would force the complex process for passage of the measure to start again, anti-tobacco campaigners say.

Lithuania favours tobacco controls while Greece opposes them.

The European Parliament last week put back the vote until October.

The tobacco industry has lobbied hard to delay the vote in hope it can get changes to the proposals, which highlight the health issues of smoking, especially for women and young adults.

The proposals aim to ban misleading packaging and presentation of tobacco products. Officials have charged that some look like confectionary packets.

Chan noted Philip Morris is opening a European distribution centre in Greece, whose government has hailed the investment as "important and symbolic".

"Here industry is counting on the historical pattern where economic and commercial interests trump public health concerns," she told the conference hosted by the WHO, India's Health Ministry and the Public Health Foundation of India, an independent think-tank.

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(c) 2013 Agence France Presse

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