World No Tobacco Day 2017 awards: winners from the WHO European Region

Every year, WHO recognizes individuals or organizations in each of its 6 regions for their accomplishments in the area of tobacco control. This year, the World No Tobacco Day award winners from the European Region are as follows.

Czechia: Dr Lenka Teska Arnoštová, Deputy Minister of Health

Dr Lenka Teska Arnoštová played a crucial role in overcoming political obstacles to achieve the adoption of new comprehensive tobacco control legislation in Czechia: the Law on Protection of Health against the Harmful Effects of Addictive Substances. This law is a major step forward in protecting people’s health in Czechia, a country with one of the Region’s highest levels of smoking among youth.

Dr Arnoštová showed strong leadership in ensuring that this comprehensive law is driven by health interests, will result in tangible health benefits for the people of Czechia and will benefit the national economy. The legislative approval process took several years, and it took Dr Arnoštová and the Ministry of Health 2 years to overcome the powerful tobacco lobby in the country. Dr Arnoštová was also the leading figure in efforts to promote the draft law among the Czech media and to build public support for it. The new law enters into force on 31 May 2017.

Germany: Unfairtobacco

Unfairtobacco is a project run by BLUE 21, a nongovernmental German development organization based in Berlin. It was founded in 2004 by Ms Laura Graen.

Unfairtobacco’s mission is to raise awareness about the social, economic and environmental impact of tobacco production, manufacture and consumption on sustainable development, with a focus on less-developed countries. It provides expertise by publishing papers and fact sheets, and by featuring on its website articles and world maps on tobacco industry strategies and alternatives to tobacco growing. Its members advocate at the national and international level to promote sustainable development within the framework of tobacco control.

Since 2007, Unfairtobacco has worked with politicians and officials to raise awareness of tobacco as a threat to development. At the level of the European Union, Unfairtobacco successfully worked with the European Parliament Committee on Development on the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Malawi, where tobacco companies are included in the programme and pledge to increase tobacco cultivation. As a result of this collaboration, the European Parliament resolution of 7 June 2016 mentions the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the obligation to promote alternatives to tobacco growing.

Since 2010, Unfairtobacco has been an active member of the Framework Convention Alliance and contributes regularly to its work, particularly on WHO FCTC articles 17 and 18. It is also a member of the Smoke Free Partnership Coalition and the Health and Trade Network.

Ireland: Department of Health

The Department of Health of Ireland has shown strong leadership in the introduction of legislation for the standardized packaging of cigarettes and tobacco products, which will be implemented in the country on 29 September 2017. The Department of Health has demonstrated continuous determination and commitment to pursue this policy over the last 4 years.

Smoking is a significant cause of ill health in Ireland: each year nearly 6000 people die from tobacco-related disease and tobacco use. This costs Irish society an estimated total of €10.7 billion annually in health care expenses, productivity losses and other costs. The Government is committed to changing this. Standardizing the packaging of tobacco products is an evidence-based measure that will assist the country in achieving the overarching goal of a tobacco-free Ireland by 2025.

Ireland is the third European country to implement standardized packaging, after the United Kingdom and France. The Department of Health of Ireland’s leadership will protect the children of Ireland from the harms of tobacco. It serves as a role model for other countries in Europe and around the world.

Kazakhstan: National Centre for Problems of Healthy Lifestyle Development

The National Centre for Problems of Healthy Lifestyle Development (NCPHLD) has made major contributions to scientific and practical work in the field of tobacco control at both national and international levels.

At the national level, in 2011 the NCPHLD initiated the opening of tobacco control centres in primary health care facilities. Currently, there are 72 anti-smoking centres in Kazakhstan. The NCPHLD was also part of the working group of the Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan, which developed technical requirements for pictorial health warnings (12 graphic images) on cigarette packages in 2011. As the result of this work, a Government resolution was adopted for strong pictorial warnings. This came into force in April 2013.

The NCPHLD actively uses mass media (television, local magazines and newspapers, the internet) to promote its work in tobacco control and to highlight the results of tobacco research conducted in the country. It also monitors and evaluates tobacco control activities. In addition, the NCPHLD conducts sociological surveys to assess the prevalence of behavioural risk factors for noncommunicable diseases, which include questions on tobacco consumption among adults and youth. It conducted a total of 6 national surveys between 1999 and 2015.

At the international level, and with support from the Ministry of Health, WHO and the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the NCPHLD conducted the Global Adult Tobacco Survey in 2014. It conducted a Global Youth Tobacco Survey in 2014–2015.

Serbia: Dr Srmena Krstev, Head of the National Committee for Tobacco Prevention

Dr Srmena Krstev has been active in tobacco control as a distinguished member of the National Committee for Tobacco Prevention of the Ministry of Health of Serbia since 2003, and has led the Committee since 2008. She has demonstrated outstanding dedication through her participation in all tobacco control-related activities, both strategic and operational. These have included: drafting national strategic documents and legislation; preparing lectures; conducting research; educating the public; collaborating with the media; and even participating in street events. She has remained dedicated to tobacco control goals despite numerous obstacles and challenges.

Dr Krstev has set a distinctive example for health professionals and others involved in tobacco control through her exceptional leadership and ability to cooperate with both national and international partners.

Slovenia: Ms Milojka Kolar Celarc, Minister of Health

Ms Milojka Kolar Celarc was the key figure in preparations for and adoption of the strong new tobacco control legislation in Slovenia. The law was made possible in large part through her dedicated leadership and deep understanding of the problem of tobacco use.

The new law includes, among other measures: large image and text health warnings on tobacco packages; a ban on flavoured cigarettes; stricter measures to prevent counterfeiting and illicit trade in tobacco products; standardized packaging of cigarettes and rolling tobacco; a ban on advertising, display and promotion of tobacco, tobacco products and related products; and regulation of electronic cigarettes as tobacco products.

The law goes beyond the strict minimum required by the European Union’s new Tobacco Products Directive, and makes Slovenia the sixth country in Europe to adopt standardized packaging. Thanks to Ms Kolar Celarc’s hard work and personal commitment, Slovenia’s new law provides an excellent example to other countries in the Region.