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Commemorations around “World No Tobacco Day”

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This post was written by and Paula Avila Guillen (Institute Associate) and Belen Rios (Research Assistant, Global Health LL.M. ‘13) at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. Any questions or comments about this post can be directed to 


World-No-Tobacco-Day-Graphics-1On Friday May 31st, as we mentioned in our blog, all around the globe, tobacco control advocates celebrated World No Tobacco Day. This initiative was created by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1988 to inform the public about the damages of tobacco consumption, the practices of the tobacco industry, and what the WHO is doing to fight the tobacco epidemic, among others. Every year the WHO chooses a topic in order to develop campaigns that will draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and the actions that are needed in order to stop the epidemic. Previous topics include gender and tobacco, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), and the tobacco  industry’s interference. This year the topic was key: banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. 

According to the WHO, “evidence shows that comprehensive advertising bans lead to reductions in the numbers of people starting and continuing smoking. Statistics show that banning tobacco advertising and sponsorship is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce tobacco demand and thus a tobacco control ‘best buy.’”

A comprehensive ban of all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship is required under the FCTC for all Parties to this treaty within five years of the entry into force of the Convention for that Party.   However, according to the WHO, only 6% of countries party the FCTC, have a comprehensive ban of advertisement, promotion and sponsorship despite its effectiveness. Total prohibition of tobacco advertisements counteract the deceptive and misleading nature of tobacco marketing campaigns; the unavoidable exposure of youth to tobacco marketing; the failure of the tobacco industry to effectively self-regulate; and the ineffectiveness of partial bans.

 All around the world, each country developed their own campaigns to commemorate World No Tobacco Day. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from the United Nations  urged Governments to ban all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship to help curb the global health threat which kills some 6 million people a year and stated, “Tobacco use is one of the top threats to human health, killing half the people who use it…When we reduce people’s exposure to tobacco advertising, we reduce the likelihood that they will start to use tobacco.”

 In the United States many organizations also called for a complete ban in tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, including the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Equally the commemorations spread out around the world, for example, in India activists drew attention to how tobacco companies use corporate social responsibility to clean their image and Indian students performed next to a sand sculpture created by sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik.  In Jamaica, the executive director of the Heart Foundation, Deborah Chen, said that the tobacco companies are investing more into the marketing of their products and, that’s why the WHO World No Tobacco Day of this year was timely. Chen noted that the youth population is being increasingly targeted and that civil society should continue support the Government’s efforts regarding tobacco control. In this context, activities in Jamaica in order to celebrate the World no tobacco day included a national forum at the Terra Nova hotel in St. Andrew; a road march and exposition in Annotto Bay while students from different high schools participated in an “edutainment” session at the Ridgemount United Church in Manchester. Lastly, in London, students met at the Convent Garden Market on Friday afternoon to raise their voices against tobacco. The students gathered at Covent Garden were joined by the Health Minister Deb Matthews and the Health Unit’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Chris Mackie.

 However, many countries chose to celebrate the World No Tobacco Day by emphasizing other topics that might be more appropriate to their national context. For example, in Colombia the Colombian League against Cancer, The Sergio Arboleda University and the Ministry of Health launched a campaign called ‘Option No Smoking’ which aims to give citizens the opportunity to impart a pedagogical “fine.” This fine looks to seek people’s attention pedagogically, in bars or restaurants that are breaking the law in smoke-free spaces. All this is part of the effort to achieve a more effective implementation of Act 1335 of 2009, which provides for 100% tobacco smoke-free spaces, in bars, restaurants, shopping centers, airports, offices and health institutions. One of the reasons for this focus is because Colombia is amongst the 6% of countries that have a comprehensive ban of all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship – despite this they have faced many difficulties with the enforcement of the law that creates a smoke-free environment.

Although, the World No Tobacco Day was initially launched by the WHO, it is celebrated in many countries in order to promote the adoption of effective measures that are necessary to address the tobacco epidemic and to protect the human right to health, but it is also a reminder that there is a need to continue the fight against the tobacco epidemic.


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