World No Tobacco Day Awards 2016 recognize several countries in European Region

WHO gives the World No Tobacco Day awards every year to carefully selected individuals and/or organizations in recognition of their accomplishments in tobacco control and in the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

The awards recognize international achievements in the fight against the global tobacco epidemic and in the promotion of tobacco control initiatives and policies. They are awarded to individuals and institutions selected for their long-term commitment and outstanding contribution to research, advocacy, health promotion, capacity-building and other activities that promote and enforce tobacco control.

This year, the Director-General's Special Recognition awards both go to representatives of Member States in the European Region: The honourable Ms Jane Ellison MP, Member of Parliament for Battersea and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Public Health, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; and Her Excellency Ms Marisol Touraine, Minister of Social Affairs and Health, France.

Europe, following Australia, has become a leader of the movement for the plain packaging of tobacco products. In 2015 Ireland became the second country in the world, and the first in Europe, to pass legislation on plain packaging, followed by the United Kingdom and France.

The following individuals and organizations in the WHO European Region were selected to receive a World No Tobacco Day award in 2016.

United Kingdom

Director-General's Special Recognition award

Her Excellency Ms Jane Ellison MP, Member of Parliament for Battersea and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Public Health, United Kingdom

Jane Ellison is responsible for overseeing the United Kingdom Government's tobacco control programme. She had primary responsibility for the introduction of standardized packaging in the Children and Families Act 2014 and in the subsequent passage of the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations in 2015.

Her strong determination to drive the standardized packaging policy forward, despite opposition and scepticism from other ministers and backbench politicians from her own political party, makes her a worthy winner of the 2016 WHO World No Tobacco Day Award. She has demonstrated courageous political leadership and determination to pass legislation that will protect children from the harms of tobacco and, along with her counterparts in France and Ireland, serves as a role model for other health ministers.

Jane Ellison was crucial to securing a large majority of members of parliament voting in favour of standardized packaging regulations in both Houses of the United Kingdom Parliament, on a free vote. She was also an integral part of the support provided to Ireland and France to develop their own legislation to introduce plain packaging.

The Minister responded to strong threats of legal action from the tobacco industry in both the United Kingdom and European courts by stating, "We cannot be complacent. We all know the damage smoking does to health… This Government is completely committed to protecting children from the harm that tobacco causes… The policy will bring the country one step closer to our first smoke-free generation."


Director-General's Special Recognition award

Her Excellency Ms Marisol Touraine, Minister of Social Affairs and Health, France

Minister Touraine has demonstrated exceptional leadership overseeing the introduction of legislation for the plain packaging of cigarettes and tobacco products, implemented in France on 20 May 2016. Her exemplary leadership regarding plain packaging in France, but also in Europe and globally, makes her a worthy recipient of the WNTD award in 2016.

Since late 2014 when Minister Touraine announced a new plan to reduce tobacco use in France by requiring that cigarettes be sold in plain packs, she has demonstrated political courage and determination to pursue this policy at every step until its adoption by the Senate – fiercely opposed by the tobacco industry and its allies. She remained clear and consistent in her communication and stated, "We can't accept that tobacco kills 73 000 people every year in our country – the equivalent of a plane crash every day with 200 people on board." As a result of the Minister's tenacity, from May 2016 all cigarettes sold in France will be in plain packaging of uniform size and colour, in a move that is notably similar to the legislation adopted in Australia three years ago.

Around a quarter of French adults indulge in the hazardous habit and one third of teenagers smoke. Smoking accounts for around 78 000 deaths annually and is the leading cause of premature death in the country.


Ms Emmanuelle Béguinot, Director, Comité National Contre le Tabagisme (CNCT)

Ms Emmanuelle Béguinot has been an effective advocate of tobacco control measures in France for almost 20 years. Among her achievements, she can include her effective advocacy of France's adoption of some of the strongest tobacco control measures in Europe and its fast progress in the past decade. In addition to the advocacy for smoking bans that resulted in this historic measure, implemented in 2007, she has also been at the forefront of the introduction of graphic warnings in 2011. Most recently, she effectively advocated and coordinated the advocacy actions of other organizations towards the adoption of plain packaging in France in late 2015, together with the country's first ever efforts  to measure and disclose tobacco industry lobbying.

As Director of CNCT, Ms Emmanuelle Béguinot's expertise in tobacco control translates into a steady flow of highly relevant, well argued and well evidenced policy calls. Most notably, under her direction CNCT has been at the forefront of the adoption and implementation of plain packaging in France, the third country in Europe and fourth worldwide to adopt this measure.

In her position as Director of CNCT, her role in the revision of the Tobacco Products Directive between 2009 and 2014 proved invaluable. She was instrumental in coordinating national advocacy on the adoption of the Tobacco Products Directive, especially the provisions concerning graphic warnings and the possibility of Member States implementing plain packaging. Her contribution will continue to be crucial in securing further progress at the national and EU levels, particularly in the area of graphic warnings and plain packaging, where her expertise will be shared with other countries currently in the process of adopting or reflecting on plain packaging policies.

Republic of Moldova

Ms Oxana Domenti, Head of Committee for Social Protection, Health and Family, Parliament, Republic of Moldova

After almost two years of debate, the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova endorsed the Tobacco Control Law on 29 May 2015. The law is extensive, advancing the policies and measures contained in the WHO FCTC and its guidelines. It has entered into force gradually, starting on 1 January 2016 with enforcement of bans on the advertising and promotion of tobacco products, followed by provisions for a full ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces and cars carrying children aged under 18 years, which entered into force on 31 May 2016.

In spite of strong opposition from the international tobacco industry lobby, local tobacco producers and special interest groups, all provisions of the law were approved in the format presented and approved by the Government in December 2013. The new Tobacco Control Law is one of the most robust in the WHO European Region and a major achievement for tobacco control in the Republic of Moldova. Approval of such a comprehensive law would not have been possible without the efforts of Ms Domenti.

Ms Oxana Domenti became Head of the Parliamentary Committee for Social Protection, Health and Family in January 2015 and one of her priorities was endorsement of a strong law on tobacco control by Parliament. She managed to oppose an army of lobbyists representing international tobacco companies and local tobacco producers, who put in all possible efforts to weaken the law. She mobilized parliamentary committees and conducted personal consultations with all parliamentarian groups, civil society organizations and mass media. She led national policy dialogues organized jointly with WHO and the Ministry of Health, showing personal leadership on tobacco control and protecting provisions of the Tobacco Control Law. Ms Domenti ensured the engagement of key parliamentarian leaders, showing commitment and determination in adoption of the law, which closely follows implementation of the WHO FCTC.

Ms Oxana Domenti put people's health and the future of the society above her political career. Enforcement of the Tobacco Control Law will lead to significant health improvements in the Moldovan population and may save more than 40 000 lives each year.


Mrs Aurelia Cristea, Member of Parliament, Romania

At the end of 2014, following requests from civil society, Mrs Aurelia Cristea, Member of the Romanian Parliament, initiated a series of public consultations regarding a revision of the smoke-free legislation in Romania. The actual revision of the smoke-free law was submitted in March 2015 by Mrs Cristea, with the support of over 100 MPs.

Aurelia Cristea also engaged with the public regarding smoke-free public places. An overwhelming 84% support by the public for a smoke-free ban in enclosed public places speaks for itself. Throughout 2015, until the smoke-free bill was adopted in December 2015, Aurelia Cristea built wide political consensus in the Romanian Parliament on the need for this behaviour change in society and the need for policy-makers to lead the effort by example.

Mrs Aurelia Cristea has already been recognized publicly for her outstanding contribution to the smoke-free bill adoption, having received an award from the United States Embassy in Romania, as well as a Civil Society Annual Award. These public recognitions highlighted her particular engagement "beyond the call of duty" and the personal energy and involvement that she put into the bill for the benefit of public health.

Mrs Cristea differentiates herself from the larger political context in Romania as an MP dedicated to the principle of preserving public health and placing public health at the top of the political agenda.


Coalition Romania Breathes

Observing weak smoke-free legislation, as well as the huge health burden derived from this, the Romanian nongovernmental sector aggregated itself at the beginning of 2015 under the "Romania breathes" coalition – a civic effort meant to support the amendments of the smoke-free legislation, to raise public awareness and understanding of such measures and to increase decision-makers' support and involvement. To date, "Romania breathes" involves more than 250 nongovernmental organizations and over 50 well known public figures. It includes, among other members, key medical societies (Romanian Society of Pneumology, Romanian Society of Cardiology, Romanian Heart Foundation, National Prevention Forum, Pneuma Foundation, Romanian Society of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care), the Romanian Youth Forum, United Youth Association, European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention and nongovernmental organizations AER PUR Romania, the Romanian Network for Smoking Prevention and Save the Children Association.
In the spring of 2015 the coalition kicked off an awareness and advocacy campaign, engaging on the front of increasing public knowledge/understanding of the need for smoke-free measures and advocating the need for such measures with the Romanian Parliament, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Youth, national tobacco control and consumer protection authorities.

The nine-month advocacy effort translated into the one of the largest-scale civil society movements, with more than 1200 pieces of news coverage on the topic and more than 50 well known public figures engaging in public support of smoke-free ban. More than 26 000 people signed an online pledge and over 11 000 joined a dedicated information page on Facebook. The coalition organized public debates with decision-makers, continuously sustained the need for information/argument building, maintained communication with the public via the Facebook page and ran daily communication with the Romanian members of parliament. The initiative received official public support from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Youth, consumer protection authorities, the Prime Minister of Romania and leaders of other political parties. It was regularly cited as one of the key advocacy initiatives of the year.

From an initiative that was highly unpopular with decision-makers, it turned into a law proposal finally voted in by the Romanian Chamber of Deputies with an overwhelming majority (164 to 20). The law was finally adopted on 15 December 2015 by the Chamber of Deputies, appealed by a group of Romanian senators, ruled in favour by the Constitutional Court on 27 January and promulgated by the President on 29 January 2016 . The law was published in the Official Monitor on 1 February and became effective as of 17 March 2016.

The smoke-free ban civil society initiative was recently awarded with the "Future Breathes Well" Award at the Romanian Civic Participation Gala and received praise from diplomatic mission representatives in Romania, including the British Embassy and the United States Embassy. The initiative was even cited by the President of Romania as a "product for export", highlighting the value that this type of civic society initiative can have as a model of participatory democracy for the benefit of public health.

In Romania today, smoking is banned in all enclosed public place and workplaces, and in all playgrounds (indoor and outdoor). The ban is complete in medical care, educational and child protection facilities.