An anti-smoking activist in Hong Kong yesterday welcomed the world's first global tobacco-control pact, but warned that the tobacco industry would aggressively try to undermine the agreement. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which was approved by the World Health Organisation's 192 members yesterday, aims to reduce tobacco-related deaths and diseases worldwide. The pact requires countries to restrict tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion, establish new labelling and clean indoor air controls, and clamp down on tobacco smuggling. Anthony Hedley, director of the University of Hong Kong's tobacco control, research and policy unit, said the pact was a 'momentous step forward', but warned that the tobacco industry would do everything it could to derail it. 'I fully expect the Tobacco Institute [of Hong Kong] to be gearing up with its member companies to lobby the government and its legislators to prevent the health benefits of this [pact] from being achieved, because it would equate to loss of profits for them,' said Professor Hedley. 'The WHO proposals are the nearest thing we can have to a vaccine [against tobacco-related disease], so it is vital that the proposals are fully ratified and implemented. No doubt the tobacco industry will try to derail this [process].' The executive director of the Tobacco Institute of Hong Kong, Peter Tam Chung-ho, said the industry supported the ban on selling cigarettes to minors. 'We look forward to working with the government on an effective, practical framework for regulating the use of tobacco products and the marketing of tobacco products,' he said. 'We also acknowledge the fact that tobacco products remain a legal product for adults, so we look forward to a framework that allows us to communicate with our customers.' The WHO estimates that, left unchecked, the 'tobacco epidemic' could kill 10 million people every year from 2020. In Hong Kong, about 6,000 premature deaths a year are linked to smoking. The WHO says smoking rates are declining in some industrialised countries, but increasing in many developing countries, especially among the young. Professor Hedley said while the tobacco-control pact would not wipe out smoking, it might slow the growth in the number of smokers in the east Pacific region, which the tobacco industry had targeted since restrictions were put in place in many western countries.