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Award Winners named for World No Tobacco Day in the Americas

Washington, D.C., May 30, 2006 (PAHO)—The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is recognizing six individuals and organizations today from across the Americas for their contributions to reducing tobacco use.

The PAHO/WHO World No Tobacco Day Awards are presented annually to individuals and institutions in the Americas that have demonstrated a long-term commitment and contribution to research, capacity building, promotion of policy or legislation, and advocacy, among other activities to advance tobacco control. The awards are given on World No-Tobacco Day, May 31, every year.

Among the six winners, Dr. Tabaré Vázquez, President of Uruguay, has been chosen to receive the prestigious WHO Director General's Award in recognition of his leadership on tobacco control in Uruguay, which has implemented some of the most progressive tobacco control measures in the world. The Director General's Award is given to only two recipients each year worldwide.

This year's winners are:

WHO Director General's Award (one of two awards worldwide)
Honorable Dr. Tabaré Vázquez, President, Oriental Republic of Uruguay

Uruguay has recently moved into the forefront of leaders in tobacco control in the Region of the Americas and in the world. From a country that just three years ago had very few public policies addressing tobacco, Uruguay has accomplished what many said could never be achieved in Latin America: it became smoke-free on March 1, 2006, the first country in the Americas to do. Just a month later, it began requiring all tobacco products sold in the country to carry one of eight hard-hitting, image-based health warnings on half of each of the main faces of the packaging. These messages are among the most innovative in the world. Many of them focus on the harm caused by secondhand smoke, reinforcing the new, successful smoke-free law.

President Tabaré Vázquez, an oncologist by training, has provided exceptional personal leadership in Uruguay's tobacco control initiatives in the face of strong tobacco industry opposition. He has actively promoted Uruguay's tobacco control policies in the media, worked to garner multi-party support in Congress for the measures and engaged civil society to actively educate and solicit support from the public. He has visited other countries in the MERCOSUR trading bloc to support the implementation of similar measures in those countries, for example inaugurating an international tobacco control meeting in Buenos Aires with the Minister of Health of Argentina. President Vázquez's personal efforts to achieve Uruguay's model policies have had and will continue to have a wide ranging impact on public health in Latin America.

WNTD 2006 Awardees (in alphabetical order)

  • Agęncia Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (ANVISA) (National Health Surveillance Agency), Brazil
    Dr. Franklin Rubinstein, Director

      Brazil was the first country in the Americas and one of the first countries in the world to prohibit misleading terminology such as "light" and "low-tar" from appearing on cigarette packages. Brazil is also developing laboratory capacity to test tobacco and tobacco smoke ingredients for countries of the Americas as well as contributing to the development of WHO's global network of tobacco testing laboratories. These actions will help ensure the implementation of testing methods for tobacco and tobacco smoke ingredients that more accurately represent what is in the product and what the smoker inhales. As the agency of the Brazilian Ministry of Health that implements and enforces regulation of the tobacco industry and its products, ANVISA has played a central role in these efforts.

      ANVISA has become well-known for its aggressive enforcement efforts to ensure compliance with all of Brazil's tobacco control laws. These actions have included shutting down a "smoking point" established by Souza Cruz (BAT) in Rio de Janeiro's airport and ensuring that health warnings are displayed on tobacco advertisements at point of sale. ANVISA provides an excellent model for governments in the Americas and worldwide for the monitoring, implementation and enforcement of tobacco control regulations.

  • Dr. Raul Batres
    Former Director General, Instituto Hondureńo para la Prevención del Alcoholismo, Drogadicción y Farmacodependencia (IHADFA) (Honduran Institute for the Prevention of Alcoholism, Drug Addiction and Pharmaceutical Dependence)

      Dr. Raul Batres was, until early 2006, the Director General of the Honduran Institute for the Prevention of Alcoholism, Drug Addiction and Pharmaceutical Dependence (IHADFA), where he had served in that position for the past four years. A gynecologist by training, Dr. Batres previously served in various capacities at the Honduras Medical Association.

      Under his leadership, IHADFA became a central force in advocating for ratification of the WHO FCTC among colleagues in government, especially among ministries such as trade and industry normally only exposed to information from the tobacco industry. Batres also successfully led the effort to unite government agencies and nongovernmental organizations in promoting tobacco control and FCTC ratification. As director of IHADFA he actively promoted smoke-free environment agreements with institutions and municipalities. To promote FCTC implementation, under his guidance IHADFA drafted legislation to require health warnings covering 50% 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
    Freelance Journalist, Chile

      Mr. Victor Hugo Durán is part of a new generation of health journalists taking an active role in uncovering the facts about the commercial and other interests influencing many health topics. He has worked for influential newspapers in Chile such as La Tercera and more recently El Mercurio. In 2005 El Mercurio fired Durán due in part to pressure from Chiletabacos, a BAT subsidiary, for exposing the tobacco industry's unethical marketing tactics and its behind-the-scenes influence to undermine approval of a proposed comprehensive tobacco control law in Chile.

      The law was promulgated into law in May 2006, due to a great extent to his efforts, and includes many of Chile's obligations under the WHO FCTC. Durán has shown great courage in exposing the tobacco industry's tactics to undermine public health measures and in doing so has helped change public perceptions of the industry, which had previously enjoyed popularity among policy makers while carried it out its activities without public scrutiny. Durán's work has served as an example to other journalists that seek to investigate the tobacco industry in Chile and other countries in the Americas.

  • InterAmerican Heart Foundation
    Dr. Beatriz Champagne, Executive Director
    Dr. Eduardo Bianco, Director of Tobacco Control
    United States of America (Pan-American mandate)

      The InterAmerican Heart Foundation (IAHF) has contributed enormously to support for ratification and implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and other tobacco control initiatives over the past several years. IAHF's network of national heart associations has been instrumental in supporting FCTC ratification in Chile, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Jamaica and Barbados, among others. IAHF has successfully coordinated tobacco control efforts among various NGOs in individual countries and among NGOs across the region, facilitating "virtual tobacco control communities" at the Latin American (CLACCTA) and Caribbean (FCTC Caribbean Coalition) level.

      IAHF has collaborated with PAHO in many of its activities and has been very sensitive to the need to facilitate NGOs working with governments whenever possible. Its approach truly exemplifies "Pan Americanism" and has been vital to information and strategy exchange across the region, and among NGOs, PAHO and governments.

  • Dr. Lynn T. Kozlowski
    Head, Department of Biobehavioral Health, Pennsylvania State University
    United States of America

      Dr. Lynn Kozlowski is one of the world's leading researchers on smokers' behavior, knowledge and beliefs related to low-tar cigarettes. Beginning at Canada's Addiction Research Foundation and continuing to the present in his current position at Penn State University, he has contributed to four U.S. Surgeon General's reports since 1981 and has published dozens of articles in scientific journals. The focus of his work has been how "light" and "low-tar" cigarettes are engineered to get lower readings on smoking machine, how smokers of low-tar cigarettes compensate to inhale as much tar as regular cigarettes yet believe that they are reducing their health risks, and how to accurately communicate information about products to consumers.

      Dr. Kozlowski's research has provided much of the knowledge that advocates worldwide have used to alert smokers and governments to the deception behind low-tar cigarettes. Dr. Kozlowski's efforts are particularly relevant for this year's WNTD theme.

Award recipients can be nominated by anyone, and are selected by a tobacco control team in WHO headquarters in Geneva.

Related information:

For more information please contact , PAHO, Public Information, 202-974-3459.

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