Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez: A Leading Force for Tobacco Control
Posted by: Editor | Dec 11, 2015
It takes courage to stand up to Big Tobacco — and Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez continues to do just that in fighting tobacco use in his country of 3.4 million people.
The Inter-American Heart Association recently recognized this courage when it presented President Vázquez with the Science of Peace Award at a ceremony in Chile. The award honored his strong commitment to tobacco control both in Uruguay and around the world.
In Uruguay, Vázquez’s tobacco control policies from his first term – including implementing 80 percent graphic health warnings on the front and back of tobacco packs, limiting cigarette brands to one variation, and eliminating misleading terms like “light” and “low-tar” – contributed to a decrease in tobacco consumption among youth by 70 percent in just 10 years (from 30 percent to 9 percent).
Globally, his strong defense of Uruguay’s life-saving tobacco control laws against bullying lawsuits from Philip Morris International in the country’s national courts and an international trade tribunal sent a resounding message to the tobacco industry and the world that countries should not and will not be intimated from taking action to save lives from tobacco use. His strong stance against Philip Morris and support for Uruguay’s tobacco control laws is setting an example for public officials and health champions everywhere.
Now back for his second term, Vázquez is not just continuing his tobacco control fight, he is taking it to a new level. Recently, he announced he will introduce plain tobacco packaging, increase taxes on tobacco, and continue to defend Uruguay’s sovereign right to legislate for public health against Big Tobacco’s court challenges. This resounding declaration of the President’s unwavering commitment sends another strong message to Philip Morris that the tobacco giant cannot intimidate countries from taking action to reduce the devastating effects of tobacco use.
"These measures are going to happen. We will do so to defend a fundamental human right: the right to health," Vázquez stated when announcing his intention to pursue the policies. (Original Spanish: “Estas medidas las vamos a llevar adelante. Lo hacemos en función de defender un derecho humano fundamental, como es el derecho a la salud”)
At the award ceremony in Chile, the president drew attention to the horrible toll of tobacco use in low- and middle-income countries.
"Never before has a pandemic swept and killed so many people in the world. As long as you do nothing, smoking is going to keep killing,” he lamented. (Original Spanish: Nunca antes una pandemia recorrió y mató tantos habitantes en el mundo y por tanto tiempo como lo hace el tabaquismo que está dispuesto a seguir matando”, lamentó.)
We applaud President Tabaré Vázquez and his continued commitment to reducing tobacco use in Uruguay, Latin America and around the world.
(Image Source: Wikipedia)