Global campaign targets tobacco industry’s efforts to capture a new generation of smokers

Copenhagen, 2 June 2008

Six Europeans rewarded for their anti-tobacco achievements

The tobacco industry casts a global net to capture young people in its deadly snare. The industry spends tens of billions of dollars each year marketing its products, and enticing young people into tobacco addiction is one of the main aims of these efforts. With a closely woven marketing net that includes advertising, promotion and sponsorship, the industry has successfully linked tobacco with glamour, fun and adventure to lure the world’s youth. The more young people are exposed to these messages and ploys, the more likely they are to use tobacco.

Approximately 1.8 billion young people aged 10–24 years live in our world today, more than 85% of them in developing countries. Having survived the vulnerable childhood period, these young people are generally healthy. However, as the tobacco industry intensifies its efforts to hook a new generation of replacement smokers, the results will be catastrophic. Currently, 5.4 million people die each year from the global tobacco epidemic. The death toll is rising relentlessly and in two decades will reach over 8 million a year, with more than 80% of those deaths occurring in the developing world. Unless serious action is taken, it is estimated that up to a billion people could die from tobacco use during the 21st century.

To reverse these trends and protect young people from the harm caused by tobacco, we must move beyond half measures. We must break the tobacco marketing net by banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Partial advertising bans are ineffective; the tobacco industry adeptly shifts its resources from one promotional tactic to another. Only a total, comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship will effectively reduce tobacco consumption. This is clearly reflected in Article 13 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and is also a major element of the WHO MPOWER policies to reverse the tobacco epidemic.

The World Health Organization dedicates World No Tobacco Day 2008 to a global ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and calls on governments, organizations and individuals to help break the marketing net so that young people around the world can grow up tobacco-free.

People who make a difference

On 31 May, six health professionals and organizations from the WHO European Region will receive WHO awards, which are given out annually to recognize those who have made a significant contribution to the anti-tobacco movement. The winners are people who go beyond the boundaries of their jobs to make a difference in tobacco control. This year the winners are the following

  • Professor Dr Recep Akdag, Minister of Health, Turkey, for his strong leadership and active involvement in the strengthening of Turkey’s tobacco control law and launching of the National Tobacco Control Programme in collaboration of more than 100 experts from various sectors related to tobacco control.
  • Dr Tharald Hetland, Chief County Medical Officer of Oppland County in Lillehammer, Norway. Dr Hetland has been actively promoting the FCTC in Norway and has also been the coordinator of the European Region group during the first two FCTC Conferences of the Parties.
  • Professor Mykola Polischuk, Adviser to the President of Ukraine on health and Chairman of the National Health Board of the President of Ukraine. While in government, Professor Polischuk actively promoted such anti-tobacco measures as tax increases, legislation on 100% smoke-free environments and a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising.
  • Dr Gunilla Bolinder, Chief Physician, Director of Studies and Education, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden. Dr Bolinder has been at the forefront of advocating for increased tobacco control by restricting the demand and use of snus (a Swedish form of smokeless tobacco) in Sweden and internationally.
  • D-MYST (Direct Movement by the Youth Smoke-free Team), Liverpool, England for providing young people with an opportunity to air their views and concerns on tobacco and to take action to take the glamour out of smoking and make non-smoking the norm.
  • Dr Anna Gilmore, School for Health, University of Bath, United Kingdom, who has been pivotal in research on tobacco control and tobacco industry strategies in Europe, especially in the Russian Federation, eastern Europe and the European Union.

“We greatly appreciate the efforts and the achievements of our winners in tobacco control – they educate and inspire many others,” says Dr Marc Danzon, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “Those honoured are well-known personalities, but we would also like to thank the millions of other health workers whose contributions to the anti-tobacco movement should be recognized and praised.”

For more information contact:

Dr Agis Tsouros
Acting Regional Adviser, Tobacco-free Europe
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Scherfigsvej 8, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel.: +45 39 17 1509

Press information

Ms Liuba Negru
Press and Media Relations
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Scherfigsvej 8, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel.: +45 3917 1344.