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Smokers unite for rights

Delegates from 22 countries puffing on pipes, cigars and cigarettes urged the United Nations on Friday to allow smoking in the name of human rights. "Smoking is a human right and should be respected according to the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations," said a declaration adopted on the opening day of Smokepeace 90, the first international smokers' conference.

The 123 delegates came from Europe, South America, the United States, Japan and Australia to the two-day meeting. They said they represented 1.7-billion smokers worldwide.

The meeting was sponsored by Finnish hotels and restaurants as well as large multinational tobacco corporations including Philip Morris and Rothmans.

"We are not puffing into the faces of nonsmokers. We are just fighting back and want them to be aware of our feelings, as we are of theirs," said Steve Handman, a spokesman for the American Smokers Alliance.

Other delegates, including non-smokers, maintained they were attending the conference to fight for civil rights.

"What the whole world is facing is a barrage of intolerance and, indeed, the outright infringement on personal liberty," said Chris Tame, British director of the Freedom Organization For The Right To Enjoy Smoking Tobacco.

Finland has banned smoking in most public places and is among countries with the strictest anti-smoking laws. However, delegates soon filled the conference room in Finlandia Hall with smoke.