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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Public health officials from more than three dozen Asian-Pacific countries are meeting today in Australia to look at ways to tackle smoking. The tobacco industry's been targeting developing countries more and more.

The BBC's Phil Mercer reports from Sydney.


PHIL MERCER: Countries like India and China have been targeted by the tobacco industry because they're very profitable. They've got a high growth rate in terms of population and they have less regulation of tobacco products. But health experts worry that the loss of life could get worse as tobacco companies increasingly target consumers in developing countries. It is estimated that if current trends continue, the number of smoking-related deaths in China alone will reach 2 million a year by 2020.

Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, the secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, says a concerted global approach is needed.

DR. SURIN PITSUWAN: We need to be united and strong in standing up against the international onslaught to turn our people into smokers.

But in some emerging economies, governments often control tobacco monopolies and rely heavily on cigarette taxes for revenue. That makes efforts to reduce smoking difficult. For their part, many major tobacco companies including British American Tobacco deny specifically targeting or exploiting developing markets.

In Sydney, I'm the BBC's Phil Mercer for Marketplace.

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