PAHO Awards for Tobacco Control
The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) honored six individuals and organizations on World No Tobacco Day for their contributions to reducing tobacco use in the Americas.
Tabaré Vázquez, president of Uruguay, received one of two WHO Director-General's Awards given worldwide for tobacco control achievements. Under his leadership, Uruguay has moved from having very few public policies on tobacco just three years ago to becoming Latin America's first "smoke-free" country (requiring all indoor workplaces and public places to be smoke-free). Uruguay now also requires all tobacco products sold in the country to carry one of eight hard-hitting, image-based health warnings taking up nearly half the package surface. President Vázquez, an oncologist by training, has promoted his policies in the media, garnered multi-partisan support in congress, and engaged civil society in educating the public and mobilizing support. He has also visited other countries to support similar tobacco control measures.
Brazil's National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA), an agency of Brazil's Ministry of Health, was recognized for its exemplary efforts in monitoring, implementation, and enforcement of tobacco control regulations. ANVISA has played a central role in ensuring the success of Brazil's tobacco control legislation. Its actions have included shutting down a "smoking point" established by tobacco company Souza Cruz in Rio de Janeiro's airport and ensuring that health warnings are displayed on tobacco advertisements at point of sale.ANVISA has also played a key role in Brazil's efforts to develop laboratory capacity to test tobacco and smoke ingredients as part of WHO's global network of tobacco-testing laboratories.
Raul Batres, former director general of the Honduran Institute for the Prevention of Alcoholism, Drug Addiction and Pharmaceutical Dependence (IHADFA), actively promoted smoke-free environment agreements with institutions and municipalities throughout Honduras and led the effort to unite government agencies and nongovernmental organizations in promoting the ratification of WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Under Batres, IHADFA became a key advocate for FCTC ratification, particularly among colleagues in key ministries such as trade and industry. To promote the treaty's implementation, Batres had IHADFA draft legislation to require health warnings covering 50 percent of all main surfaces of tobacco packaging and to ban misleading terms such as "light" and "mild." The proposed legislation is currently under discussion in the Honduran congress.
Victor Hugo Durán, a Chilean journalist, was recognized for a series of reports he wrote for the daily newspaper El Mercurio exposing the tobacco industry's unethical marketing tactics and its behind-the-scenes efforts to undermine approval of a proposed comprehensive tobacco control law in Chile. The legislation, which codifies many of Chile's obligations under the FCTC, was passed in May 2006, in great part due to Durán's efforts. His reporting has helped change public perceptions of the tobacco industry and has served as an example to other journalists who seek to investigate the tobacco industry in Chile and other countries of the Americas.
The Inter American Heart Foundation (IAHF) was honored for its contributions to the ratification and implementation of the FCTC and other tobacco control initiatives. IAHF's network of national heart associations has been instrumental in supporting FCTC ratification in Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Chile, Jamaica, Mexico, and Uruguay, among others. The foundation has coordinated tobacco control efforts among various nongovernmental organizations in individual countries and across the region, facilitating "virtual tobacco control communities." IAHF has worked with PAHO in many of its efforts. Its Pan-American approach has been vital to information and strategy exchange across the region.
Lynn T. Kozlowski, head of the Department of Biobehavioral Health at Pennsylvania State University, USA, was recognized as one of the world's leading researchers on smokers' behavior, knowledge, and beliefs related to low-tar cigarettes. First at Canada's Addiction Research Foundation and later at Penn State, Kozlowski has contributed to four U.S. Surgeon General's Reports since 1981 and has published dozens of articles in scientific journals. His research has shown how "light" and "low-tar" cigarettes are engineered to get lower readings on smoking machines, how smokers of low-tar cigarettes inhale as much tar as smokers of regular cigarettes (yet believe that they are reducing their health risks), and what consumers believe about low-tar cigarettes. Kozlowski's research has provided much of the knowledge that tobacco control advocates worldwide have used to alert smokers and governments to the deception behind low-tar cigarettes.