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WHO acknowledges contributions in tobacco control from public health leaders and organizations from the Americas

WHO acknowledges contributions in tobacco control from public health leaders and organizations from the Americas

Washington D.C. 23 May 2024 (PAHO) – Public health and law professionals, a congresswoman, and civil society organizations from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay were recognized today by the World Health Organization (WHO) with World No Tobacco Day 2024 Awards.

Each year, WHO recognizes individuals or organizations that have made an outstanding contribution to advancing the policies and measures included in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Winners are selected from nominations submitted in a global public call. This year’s winners from the Americas are individuals and organizations who have made exceptional contributions in advancing tobacco control during 2023:

Vera da Costa e Silva has been a global pioneer in advancing tobacco control since the 1980s, initially focusing on her home country, Brazil. She was instrumental in establishing Brazil’s National Commission for the Negotiation and Implementation of the WHO FCTC – CONICQ – where she currently serves as Executive Secretary. From mid-2014 to early 2020, she served as the Head of the Secretariat of the WHO FCTC.  As a leader in tobacco control, Dr da Costa e Silva’s tireless work across national, regional and global levels continues to inspire present and future generations in the ongoing fight against the tobacco epidemic.

Gustavo Sóñora has been a voice in advocating for tobacco control and children’s rights over corporate interests for almost twenty years. His journey began in his home country Uruguay, where he played a key role in the approval of the 2008 Tobacco Control Law as a parliamentary advisor. He joined both local and global civil society organizations, including the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease and Vital Strategies and has been instrumental in advancing the tobacco control agenda in the Americas. 

Congresswoman Carolina Giraldo Botero assumed her parliamentary role in the Republic of Colombia in 2022 and has since been unwavering in efforts to champion national legislative changes to protect children from the tobacco industry. She advocated for a cigarette tax increase and for the taxation of novel and emerging nicotine and tobacco products in the tax reform of 2022. When these efforts did not succeed, she took decisive action by filing a stand-alone bill to advance these policies.

Corporación Colombiana de Padres y Madres Red PaPaz is a non-profit organization founded in 2003 and committed to safeguarding the wellbeing of children and adolescents against the harms from tobacco and nicotine addiction. Through its educational network, Red PaPaz launched the online petition #LeyVapeadoresRegulados, urging the Colombian Congress to pass a bill that extends tobacco control measures to novel and emerging nicotine and tobacco products. After two years of deliberations, a corresponding bill was enacted in May 2024. Their campaign also led to seven youth initiatives to prevent the use of these products and to raise awareness about their toxicity and industry sales tactics targeting children.

A national of Argentina, Gianella Severini has been a driving force over the past decade in creating a network of young advocates in Latin America dedicated to human rights and tobacco control. Her efforts have built capacity, empowered young people and provided a platform where they can engage government, civil society, and academia to foster tobacco control policies. In her role as senior legal coordinator for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Dr Severini has provided strategic guidance on policy development with a focus on protecting gains, preventing setbacks, and resisting tobacco industry interference. At the age of 32, she has become a key figure in legal matters concerning tobacco control in Latin America.

Alberto José de Araújo (in memoriam) and Antônio Pedro Mirra (in memoriam) were esteemed pioneers of the tobacco control movement in their home country Brazil. They played a vital role in establishing a tobacco control program within the Brazilian Medical Association in the 1970s, where both served as Presidents of the Commission to Fight Against Smoking. Their efforts paved the way for the first National Program to Fight Against Smoking in 1985. In addition, Dr Araújo led efforts to create the Center for the Study and Treatment of Smokers (NETT), which is now one of the country’s reference sites for smoking cessation treatment and tobacco control policies. Dr Mirra founded and directed the São Paulo Cancer Registry and coordinated several studies on cancer epidemiology and tobacco control as a professor at the Faculty of Public Health at Universidade de São Paulo.

Tobacco kills more than eight million people each year worldwide, one million of them in the Americas. World No Tobacco Day was created by WHO Member States in 1987 and is commemorated every 31 May with the aim to raise awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke. The World No Tobacco Awards are presented every year on the international day.

The theme for World No Tobacco Day 2024 is Protecting children from tobacco industry interference. The campaign provides a platform for young people to call for an end to efforts by the tobacco industry to target them with harmful products and for governments to adopt policies that shield them from manipulative industry practices, including relentless marketing of tobacco products through social media and streaming platforms.

Por: Cristina Mitchell