World No Tobacco Day awards 2015

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 (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. The following individuals and organizations in the WHO European Region have been selected to receive a World No Tobacco Day award in 2015.

Mr Luk Joossens, Belgium

Luk Joossens has long been Europe's leading expert on the illicit tobacco trade and has been a prominent figure in the European tobacco control community for more than 30 years. He has written numerous academic articles, advised international bodies and contributed to intergovernmental discussions in this area of tobacco control. 

His expertise on the illicit tobacco trade and cigarette smuggling is cemented in the catalogue of academic articles that he has authored and coauthored since the early 1990s. This comprises over 30 peer-reviewed scientific articles, covering cigarette smuggling, cross-border shopping, the illicit tobacco trade, smuggling control systems, tobacco supply chains, including the role of Codentify and standardized packaging at the national, European, regional and international levels. 

His advisory work also extends to intergovernmental negotiations in the context of the WHO FCTC Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. In his current position at the Association of European Cancer Leagues, his role in the revision of the European Union 2001 Tobacco Products Directive (TDP) between 2009 and 2014 proved invaluable, particularly with respect to discussions regarding Article 15 of the TDP on the tracking and tracing of tobacco products. In the past 30 years, Mr Joossens has contributed to the successes of tobacco control countless times at the national, European and international levels, in particular in the area of illicit tobacco trade. 

Mr Ilir Beqaj, Minister of Health, Albania

The WHO FCTC was ratified by Albania in 2006. The same year, a new tobacco control law was adopted. Implementation of this law has been rather poor due to the lack of strong political will and leadership. Since becoming the Minister of Health in September 2013, Mr Beqaj has demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to strengthening implementation of the WHO FCTC through actions ranging from legislative acts to partnering with the people of Albania with a view to gaining their full support. Some examples of actions taken under his leadership are:

  • a law ensuring amendments to the law "On excises in the Republic of Albania" that enforces higher fines and penalties on unauthorized tobacco production;
  • a law ensuring amendments to the law "On protection of health from tobacco products" that enforces (i) media education and online information; (ii) a ban on tobacco in public places; (iii) strengthening of institutional capacities for law enforcement, including the State Health Inspectorate and tax offices; and (iv) enforcing significantly higher fines and State penalties for violations of the law;
  • strengthening institutional capacities for law enforcement: starting from January 2014, the recently established State Health Inspectorate expanded across the country, undertaking the task of monitoring implementation of the anti-tobacco law and inspecting public premises; and
  • partnering with the public to disseminate anti-smoking campaigns.

Professor Murat Tuncer, President of Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey

Professor Murat Tuncer is the Rector (President) of Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey, which bans smoking in outdoor areas. The change took effect from the beginning of the spring semester 2012 following Professor Tuncer's appointment as Rector. 

The University has taken an incremental approach towards restricting smoking in outdoor areas. The Rector banned smoking in and near campus buildings in 2012. Hacettepe University is the first university in Turkey to become completely smoke-free indoors and to adopt partial outdoor bans. Professor Tuncer now plans to implement 100% smoke-free grounds on all campuses of the Hacettepe University and a complete ban on selling all kinds of tobacco products to achieve the first tobacco-free university in Turkey, as well as in Europe. He established the Tobacco Control and Taxation Research and Training Centre at Hacettepe University and has hosted many international and regional tobacco control meetings with WHO, providing technical assistance to other country delegations that visited Turkey for tobacco control. 

Before being elected Rector, Professor Tuncer was Director of the Cancer Control Department of the Ministry of Health of Turkey, where he was active in tobacco control efforts. 

Professor Tibor Baška, coordinator of the Global Tobacco Surveillance System, Slovakia

Professor Baška has been involved in tobacco control since the 1990s, when he started to work in the area of the epidemiology of substance use and its prevention among the population. Since 2002, he has been coordinator of the Global Tobacco Surveillance System in Slovakia. He has led several surveys, including the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, the Global Health Professions Student Survey and the Global School Personnel Survey.

Professor Baška was one of the first experts in the European Region to initiate the analysis of data collected in the context of the Global Tobacco Surveillance System and related publications. In the past 10 years, under his leadership a series of scientific articles have been published in the International Journal of Public Health and in Tobacco Control. Those articles have contributed significantly to the understanding of epidemiological issues of tobacco use in Europe and strengthened the use of evidence-based policies.

Kosovo Advocacy and Development Centre (KADC) 

KADC has been actively engaged in reforming tobacco control policies and their implementation at the government level. The Centre has played a pivotal role in advocating for the adoption of a strong, comprehensive tobacco control law that bans all forms of promotion and sponsorship and mandates smoke-free public places and workplaces.

KADC mobilized the most active civil society organizations in Kosovo in signing a common statement (signed by 56 civil society organizations) to request approval of the Law on Tobacco Control in Kosovo by Parliament and by the president. To increase civic participation and to coordinate joint efforts towards a smoke-free environment, KADC initiated the broad Anti-Tobacco Coalition, consisting of governmental and non-governmental institutions such as the Ministry of Health, the Parliamentary Health Commission, the National Public Health Institute, the WHO Country Office in Kosovo, UNICEF and a number of civil society organizations.

After the new tobacco control law entered into force in 2013, KADC supported the Ministry of Health in developing the national action plan for the enforcement of tobacco control policies and the inspectorate authorities in building and strengthening their capacities. Other initiatives include:

  • conducting the "Breathe Freely" awareness campaign to promote the newly adopted 100% smoke-free measures;
  • an automated information system to track and monitor tobacco control inspection visits in health-care institutions; and 
  • a report on smoke-free provision compliance throughout Kosovo, which attracted wide media coverage and contributed to the improved implementation and intensification of the work of inspectors in enforcing the smoking ban.

Government of Spain and the customs services of the Ministry for the Treasury and Public Administration

Spain is one of the few (7) countries in the world that have ratified the WHO FCTC Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. The Government of Spain has a long-term commitment to fighting illicit trade of tobacco products, which resulted in a drastic reduction of the availability of smuggled tobacco between 1996 and 2010. Such efforts require reinforcement, since recent years have seen a rebound.

In the 1990s, international cigarette brands were a key source for contraband in Spain. The resources that Spain invested in combating cigarette smuggling between 1993 and 1996 and between 1996 and 2000 rose from €4 million to almost €40 million, respectively. Over the same periods, the market share of smuggled cigarettes decreased from 16% to 2% and cigarette tax revenue rose from €2.3 billion to €5.2 billion. An investment of €44 million led to an increase in revenue of almost €3 billion. According to the Spanish customs authorities, their success was due to reducing supply into the country at container level through intelligence, customs activity and improved national and European cooperation and technology. In 2010, investigations in Spain identified a large, structured criminal group responsible for smuggling cigarettes from China into Spain and Portugal. The group was also suspected of laundering the profits of these illegal activities. As a result, the group was dismantled. Since 2010, the amount of smuggled tobacco has slightly increased, although the Spanish authorities, along with the European Union, are expected to succeed in curbing the illicit trade of tobacco products once again.