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President Tabaré Vázquez of Uruguay Honored for Global Leadership in Fight against Tobacco


May 16, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids announced that it has selected Uruguay’s president Dr. Tabaré Vázquez to receive its highest honor, the Champion Award, which recognizes extraordinary leadership in the fight against tobacco use around the world. President Vázquez is being honored for his unparalleled leadership in reducing tobacco use in Uruguay and for his courage in standing up to the tobacco industry. President Vázquez has set an example for Latin America and the world.

President Vázquez will be honored at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ annual awards gala on May 17, in Washington, DC.

Under President Vázquez, Uruguay has become a global leader in reducing tobacco use and a role model for its implementation of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

Uruguay became the first smoke-free nation in the Americas, implemented graphic health warnings covering 80 percent of the tobacco pack, banned tobacco advertising, significantly increased tobacco taxes, prohibited misleading terms like 'light' and 'low-tar' and limited tobacco brands to single presentations in order to prevent deceptive branding. These actions led to an extraordinary 65 percent decline in tobacco use among youth and a 28 percent decline among adults.

President Vázquez’s commitment to fighting tobacco use inspired neighboring nations to follow Uruguay’s example. In less than a decade, the Americas became the WHO region with the greatest number of countries adopting tobacco control legislation, including 17 countries with 100 percent smoke-free laws.

In addition, President Vázquez is leading Uruguay’s courageous defense against Philip Morris International’s international trade challenge to the country’s life-saving tobacco control measures. In what is truly a David versus Goliath battle, Uruguay is standing up to Philip Morris’s lawsuit, which was clearly brought to intimidate Uruguay and nations across the globe from implementing effective public health measures. A decision in the case is expected this year.

'President Tabaré Vázquez has provided unmatched leadership, vision and commitment in fighting tobacco use, and his efforts have been a catalyst for life-saving change not only in Uruguay, but throughout Latin America and the world,' said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Motivated by his own experience as an oncologist, President Vázquez made it a priority to reduce the horrific impact of tobacco use on the health of his country. By bravely standing up to international tobacco companies, he sent a resounding message that countries must not be intimidated from taking strong action to reduce tobacco use and save lives.”

Currently serving his second term, President Vázquez is again demonstrating global leadership by announcing plans to introduce legislation requiring plain packaging for tobacco products.

Tobacco use is the world’s leading cause of preventable death, claiming about six million lives each year. More than 80 percent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, disproportionally affecting some of the world’s most vulnerable populations and creating costs many nations cannot afford.

His Excellency Carlos Gianelli Derois, Uruguay’s ambassador to the United States and a tobacco control champion in his own right, will accept the award on behalf of President Vázquez.

The U.S.-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll in the United States and around the world. Tobacco-Free Kids seeks to create a future free of death and disease caused by tobacco. Internationally, Tobacco-Free Kids works with governments and non-governmental organizations to implement effective measures to reduce tobacco use, as called for by the WHO FCTC.