Industry Interference Focus of No Tobacco Day

May 31 is the annual observance of World No Tobacco Day. This year, WHO focused on what it calls the industry's "aggressive attempts to undermine global tobacco control efforts."

The World Health Organization and allied groups are observing World No Tobacco Day on May 31, with this year's activity focused on the tobacco industry’s “interference” with tobacco control initatives.

"In recent years, multinational tobacco companies have been shamelessly fueling a series of legal actions against governments that have been at the forefront of the war against tobacco. The industry is now stepping out of the shadows and into courtrooms," WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said May 30. "We must now stand together with these governments that have had the courage to do the right thing to protect their citizens."

Some countries are complying with the 2003 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which encourages governments to create smoke-free enclosed workplaces and public places; to inform the public of tobacco's risks through strong visual warning on tobacco packages; and to ban tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorships. According to WHO, the governments of Australia, Norway, and Uruguay are now battling tobacco industry lawsuits in their national courts.

WHO has released a technical resource paper and global brief to help countries combat tobacco industry interference. "National leaders need to resist these tactics and use the full force of the convention to protect the hard-won gains to safeguard people's health from the scourge of tobacco," said Dr. Douglas Bettcher, director of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative department.

WHO created World No Tobacco Day in 1987. One supporter of the day is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), part of HHS. According to SAMHSA, almost half of the 443,000 annual tobacco-related deaths in the United States are people with mental and substance-use disorders. SAMHSA offers advisories for promoting tobacco cessation during substance abuse treatment and counseling.

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