Speech – Presentation of World No Tobacco Day 2014 award to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova
Every 6 seconds someone dies from tobacco use in the world. Tobacco kills up to half of its users. It kills nearly 6 million people each year, 1.6 million of whom die in Europe. The WHO European Region is WHO region with the highest proportion of deaths attributable to tobacco in the world; this is one first place we should not be proud of. Our Region has also the largest amount of adult smokers: 28%. Tobacco use continues to spread death and disease and has economic consequences for the health sector that we would never accept if the product were developed and marketed today.
In 2005, 10 years ago next year, the first global health treaty – the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) – entered into force. This was the result of concerted action against the rising tobacco epidemic globally. Fifty of the 53 countries in the WHO European Region have ratified the FCTC and are bound by its legal obligations, including the Republic of Moldova (in 2009). Despite wide ratification and many changes to align national policies with the FCTC, Europe has no room for complacency. While the Region is the global leader in high tobacco taxes, we are far from the same high standing in other key areas of tobacco-control policy, such as smoke-free public places, smoking-cessation services, bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and strong pictorial warnings on tobacco packages.
Europe is moving in the right direction but progress has not been sufficient to protect the health of the European people as they deserve and to support tougher policies.
Full implementation of the WHO FCTC throughout the Region is paramount. Health ministers in our Region clearly committed themselves to this by adopting the Ashgabat Declaration in December 2013 and by requesting the WHO Regional Office for Europe to prepare a roadmap of actions to achieve the FCTC in September 2014.
In the last year, the Republic of Moldova registered outstanding progress in tobacco control. Despite strong opposition from many directions, the Government of the Republic of Moldova proposed a tobacco-control law in December 2013 and opened it up for parliamentary public hearings and committees in February 2014. This law was robust and extensive in its provisions, advancing the policies and measures contained in the WHO FCTC and its guidelines.
Your Excellency, Mr Prime Minister, your strong leadership and direct personal involvement began when tobacco control was set as a Government priority. You made a political commitment to counteract the high prevalence of smoking in your country with powerful action. You as Prime Minister had a clear intent to pass a strong tobacco-control law and you masterfully mobilized all ministers to support its development and final adoption. Strategic cooperation with civil-society organizations and the mass media, as well as your personal appearance in a tobacco-control film to gain public support, were instrumental. Your leadership ensured that the law was developed in record time, with good coverage by a national communication campaign and national policy dialogues on tobacco control.
Your personal conviction and engagement put people’s health and society’s future above all else. While economic arguments often prevail, in this particular situation, the country’s most valuable resource – its people – was put first.
Being a leader in tobacco control comes with the responsibility to sustain success and do even more. I am confident that the Republic of Moldova is not only committed but also ready to adopt a strong tobacco-control law to achieve the global voluntary target on tobacco use by 2025. We at the WHO Regional Office for Europe stand ready to continue to support you.