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WHO teams with sports governing bodies to launch 'tobacco free sports' initiative

WHO teams with sports governing bodies to launch 'tobacco free sports' initiative

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) has teamed with many of the world's sports governing bodies to launch a campaign to free sports from all forms tobacco - from consumption and exposure to second-hand smoke to tobacco advertising, promotion and marketing.

In a statement released at its Geneva headquarters, WHO said that it would be joined in its campaign for "Tobacco-Free Sports" by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the Federation Internationale De L'Automobile Association (FIA), Olympic Aid and other regional and local sports organizations.

In addition, tobacco-free events will be organized all over the world, including the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games and the 2002 FIFA World Cup in the Republic of Korea and Japan, the agency noted.

Tobacco companies pump millions of dollars every year into sponsoring sports events worldwide, WHO said, citing figures from the US Federal Trade Commission which show that in the United States alone, the major domestic cigarette companies reported spending $113.6 million on sports and sporting events in 1999.

"In countries where direct tobacco advertising is banned by law, sponsorship of sports amounts to a cynical manipulation of national laws," the agency said. "Despite a federal ban on tobacco advertising on television, it is estimated that tobacco companies achieve the equivalent of more than $150 million in television advertising every year in the US through their sponsorship of motor sports events."

While sports are a celebration of life, tobacco products cause disease and death, WHO said, noting that smoking kills more than 4 million people annually and is estimated to kill 8.4 million people every year by 2020. "In short, tobacco and sports do not mix," the agency said.