Decisions taken in Delhi in India over the next week could pave the way on how the public here and across the world think about smoking and tobacco use. And a Fermanagh man will be central to getting the message out.
The Seventh Session of the Conference of the Parties to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is being held in Delhi from November 7 to 12 involving representatives from 179 countries including the EU.
Sam Compton, who has Fermanagh links and is based here for his work for various agencies, is the Media Manager for the Convention Secretariat working with journalists flying in from all over the world.
He said: “Despite the serious employment problems caused by the Gallagher cigarette factory closure in Ballymena, the need to cut tobacco consumption is still urgent. 
“The Health Intelligence unit at the Northern Ireland Public Health Agency estimates that one in six of all deaths in the Province are caused by smoking. The trend shows a widening gap between rich and poor. The more deprived the area the higher the rates of tobacco related deaths.
“It is shocking that nearly 10 per cent of girls(under 18) in the UK are smoking. It is expected more men and women smoke in the United Kingdom than on average in other high-income countries and this is causing additional costs to the health services and reduces the quality of lives of thousands of people.”
Sam is spending this week in Delhi working with Indian national media and then attending the main event which officially begins on Monday next with 1200 delegates.
As a UN treaty, translation is provided in the six official UN languages, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Approximately 48 health correspondents and journalists are attending from around the world.
Sam explained the work of the treaty.
“The WHO FCTC is the world’s first global public health treaty but to effectively tackle the tobacco epidemic, it is engaging with other UN treaties linked to regulating international trade, human rights and cross-border custom regulations. These are growing areas of importance because growing tobacco is hazardous, causing illness to child labours, while families become tied to the tobacco companies for very little profit.
“Approximately six million die annually from tobacco related diseases, with 600,000 dying from second-hand smoke. Despite the effectiveness of the WHO FCTC, with most Parties implementing many of the Convention’s articles, the death rate is expected to rise. This sad prediction is based on the ruthless marketing strategies employed by the tobacco industry. Watching the dropping consumption rate in the west they have turned their attention to attracting new smokers in Africa and other parts of the world where smoking rates are presently much lower than in the west. This cynical decision means death rates caused by tobacco is expected to rise to eight million people a year, focused mainly in countries that can least afford the care and treatment of those suffering from cancer and other illnesses caused by smoking.
 “The Conference of the Parties (COP7) is therefore poised to take some decisive decisions that could affect the profits of tobacco companies. One proposal before the Parties in India is developing civil liability laws that force companies to compensate countries for the medical services provided to treat victims of tobacco. This could raise millions of pounds in each country, significantly improving health care facilities,” he said.
The UK is one of the most enthusiastic parties to the Treaty and have enacted ground breaking control measures such as plain packaging on new packs of cigarettes with large graphic images warning the public. The Republic of Ireland are also well advanced with a similar strategy.