May. 16 2012
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dr. Veronica Schoj of Argentina will be honored with the 2012 Judy Wilkenfeld Award for International Tobacco Control Excellence for her leadership in the fight against tobacco use in Argentina and throughout Latin America. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids will present Dr. Schoj with the award at its annual awards gala on May 17, 2012, in Washington, D.C.
The Wilkenfeld award was established in honor of Judy Wilkenfeld, the founder of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' international program, who passed away in May 2007. The award recognizes international tobacco control advocates who both contribute significantly to reducing tobacco use and inspire others to do the same, in the spirit exemplified by Judy Wilkenfeld.
Dr. Schoj is Executive Director of the InterAmerican Heart Foundation Argentina (FIC Argentina) and past coordinator of the Argentina Smoke-free Alliance (ALIAR).
Credited by her colleagues with building a national tobacco control movement in Argentina and widely recognized as a regional force throughout Latin America, Dr. Schoj led a coalition of civil society groups that successfully advocated for the passage of Argentina's comprehensive National Tobacco Control Law in 2011. The law includes 100 percent smoke-free public places, pictorial warning labels and a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising.
"Dr. Veronica Schoj is the ideal recipient of the 2012 Judy Wilkenfeld Award for International Tobacco Control Excellence. She has built a powerful tobacco control movement in Argentina, played a key role in the enactment of legislation that will reduce tobacco use and save lives, and has served as a role model and mentor to a new generation of tobacco control leaders throughout Latin America" said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "In the spirit of Judy Wilkenfeld, she has brought people together and inspired a new generation of leaders."
A practicing physician for most of her career, Dr. Schoj conducted research on the effectiveness of tobacco control policies and on clinical and educational interventions in tobacco control in the framework of the Hospital Italiano's tobacco control program. In 2001, she joined Argentina's National Tobacco Control Program, where she became an effective advocate for tobacco control.
In 2008, Dr. Schoj launched the InterAmerican Heart Foundation Argentina, a non-governmental organization that draws together professionals from many fields to educate policy makers about tobacco's harms. That same year, she helped to found the Argentina Smoke-Free Alliance, a coalition that today comprises more than 100 civil society groups throughout Argentina.
Through both organizations, Dr. Schoj and her team fought back against the tobacco industry's intense efforts to weaken and defeat tobacco control policies. These organizations successfully advocated for provincial and municipal smoke-free laws across Argentina that led to the National Tobacco Control Law. Counting the national law among Argentina's greatest tobacco control successes, Dr. Schoj helped fuel a sweeping movement across Latin America, which today consists of 13 smoke-free countries.
"I am honored to have been selected for this award from such an extraordinary group of individuals from around the world who were nominated," said Dr. Schoj. "My colleagues and I have seen great progress in Argentina and throughout Latin America. We hope to serve as an example for the global community so that the world may know that standing up to big tobacco is possible."
Dr. Schoj's exemplary leadership and dedication to fighting tobacco use comes at a critical time. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death around the world, killing nearly 6 million people annually. Unless other countries join Argentina in implementing proven measures to reduce tobacco use, tobacco will kill one billion people worldwide this century.