November 6, 2008 / 11:48 PM / 9 years ago

U.N. headquarters targeted in new anti-smoking drive

<p>United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a news conference in New Delhi October 31, 2008.B Mathur</p>

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. General Assembly has ordered Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to put an end to smoking at U.N. headquarters in New York, widely seen as a tobacco safe haven in an otherwise smoke-free metropolis.

The assembly told Ban to implement a ban on smoking and on the sale of tobacco products inside the building, Enrique Yeves, spokesman for General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, told reporters on Thursday.

He said the demand came in a nonbinding resolution passed unanimously by the 192 U.N. member states earlier this week.

"It is up to the secretariat now ... to decide what kind of realistic measures can be taken for this to be implemented," Yeves told reporters.

Word of the General Assembly's anti-smoking resolution had yet to reach all corners of the 40-story building.

In the U.N. Delegates Lounge, a cloud of cigarette smoke hovered over clusters of diplomats and U.N. staff puffing tobacco and sipping coffee.

Several of them told Reuters they had not heard of the resolution but added that they doubted Ban would succeed.

Although the United Nations is headquartered in New York, a statewide smoking ban does not apply to the Manhattan compound because it is considered international territory.

Ban's predecessor Kofi Annan tried to ban smoking at the U.N. skyscraper in 2003. But his anti-smoking drive failed as many diplomats and U.N. staff simply ignored the "no smoking" signs that appeared throughout the building.

U.N. officials say that smoking in the 60-year-old skyscraper is discouraged but not officially banned. Other U.N. agencies in New York with offices outside the U.N. secretariat building have successfully banned smoking on their premises.

The top envoy from Britain, which co-sponsored the General Assembly resolution, welcomed the new anti-smoking drive.

"I think as part of our effort to modernize the U.N., it's important that the United Nations keeps up with the standards in the rest of the world," Ambassador John Sawers told Reuters.

"Smoking has been banned in the United Nations in Geneva," he said. "We look forward to doing the same here in New York."

Editing by Eric Walsh

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