MEXICO CITY (AP) – The government teamed up with doctors, academics and a U.S.-based drug company Wednesday to announce a campaign to reduce the number of smokers in Mexico by more than 10 percent in three years.

The newly formed National Alliance Against Tobacco Addiction also urged Congress to pass a new tax on cigarettes proposed by President Felipe Calderon.

About 13 percent of Mexico’s population, or 14 million people, smoke, and 122 people die each day from tobacco-related illnesses, according to government statistics.

Among Mexico’s smokers are 25 percent of its doctors. The alliance pledged an effort to persuade them to kick the habit.

The initiative will include publicity spots directed at students, teachers and the general population and courses led by doctors to help patients stop smoking or prevent them from starting. The alliance includes New York-based pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc.

“Efforts in our country have been insufficient” to reduce smoking, said Mario Acosta, president of the Medical Alliance, an association of 40,000 general practitioners leading the campaign.

Calderon’s government has proposed a 10 to 12 percent tax on cigarettes – an average of 27 cents per pack. A pack of cigarettes costs about $1.80 in Mexico.

The government says the tax would yield more than $628 million annually – 23 percent of the approximately $2.7 billion spent each year on treating tobacco-related illnesses. The tax revenues would be used to offset those costs.

“We urge all political factions to seriously consider this type of initiative,” said Cristobal Ruiz, an official with the National Council Against Addictions.

“We are confronting very powerful economic interests,” he added, referring to tobacco companies that already have spoken out against the proposed tax and warned lawmakers that they would appeal any such measures.

AP-ES-12-13-06 2219EST


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