Proposed funding cuts within the international body responsible for tobacco control will leave the world's poorest countries more vulnerable to smoking-related diseases, a study suggests.
As many as 80 countries from the developing world, such as Paraguay, Rwanda, and Kyrgyzstan, could effectively be excluded from the forum tasked with reducing global tobacco use should the cuts go ahead.
The World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is considering cutting its funding for delegates from poorer countries to attend meetings.
Parties to the FCTC are currently meeting in Seoul, South Korea. The conference is the main forum for tackling smoking-related diseases and is attended by policy makers and health officials from around the world.
The changes to FCTC funding could leave millions in the developing world, where the number of smoking deaths is rising, exposed to unrestricted tobacco use and promotion.
Cuts to travel support for delegations from low and lower-middle income countries will threaten the participation of over 80 countries in future FCTC meetings.
The cuts - supported by the EU, Canada, and Australia - would undermine the representation of those countries most at risk, research led by the University of Edinburgh claims.
High income countries such as European nations are currently experiencing a nine per cent decline in smoking deaths each year. In low and middle income countries, however, smoking deaths are expected to double from 3.4 million in 2002 to 6.8 million by 2030.