WHO recognizes doctors and organizations from six countries of the Americas for their contributions to tobacco control

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WHO recognizes doctors and organizations from six countries of the Americas for their contributions to tobacco control

Washington D.C. 25 May 2023 (PAHO) – Health professionals, researchers, officials, public agencies, and civil society organizations from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, the United States of America, and Uruguay were recognized today with the World Health Organization (WHO) World No Tobacco Day 2023 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) in each of the six WHO regions. Winners are selected from among nominations submitted following a global public call for nominees, with a maximum of six awards per region, of which two may receive special recognition.

Dr. Reina Roa, of Panama, received the WHO Director-General's Special Recognition Award for her 20 years of work dedicated to eradicating smoking. Dr. Roa is the head tobacco control officer at Panama's Ministry of Health. She also represents the Region of the Americas as vice president of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. She played a key role in Panama´s ratification of the FCTC, the second country in the Region to achieve this milestone.

Dr. Roa's actions contributed to reducing the prevalence of tobacco use among people over 15 years of age in Panama to 5.1% in 2020, the lowest rate in the Region. She will receive the award on 27 May, in Geneva (Switzerland), during the World Health Assembly.

ACT Promoção da Saúde and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation’s Center for Tobacco and Health Studies (CETAB) received a joint award for having contributed significantly to tobacco control efforts in Brazil, and to an understanding of the socio-environmental impact of tobacco growing and production.

Blanca Llorente Carreño, from Colombia, and Luz Reynales Shigematsu, from Mexico, received a joint award in recognition of their long-term contributions to tobacco control research and advocacy in their countries, in the Region, and beyond. Dr. Llorente, a university professor and Research Director at the Anáas Foundation, has played a key role in promoting the tobacco tax agenda in Colombia and in Latin America as a whole. Dr. Reynales, who heads the Department of Tobacco Control and Prevention at Mexico's National Institute of Public Health, has coordinated the Institute's summer course on tobacco control for more than ten years, training multiple cohorts of Latin American advocates, researchers, and decision-makers, among her other achievements.

The Mexican organizations Salud Justa Mx, Polithink, Coalición México Salud-Hable, Códice SC (Comunicación, Diálogo y Conciencia SC), and Refleacciona con Responsabilidad AC received a joint award for their tireless efforts and perseverance over more than a decade advocating for the implementation of effective tobacco control measures, in line with the FCTC in their country. Mexico is the 24th PAHO Member State to have 100% smoke-free public places, indoor workspaces, and public transport, and the ninth to ban tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.

A USA-based organization, Corporate Accountability, was recognized for their work on protecting the implementation of WHO FCTC Article 5.3 at the global level. A formidable global advocacy campaign was launched highlighting the risks of allowing the tobacco industry to collaborate on health issues under the pretext of corporate social responsibility, based on the example of the Medicago Covifenz COVID-19 vaccine, which had investment from Phillip Morris International. Over 100 NGOs from around the world supported this campaign. In March 2022, WHO rejected the Medicago Covifenz COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use and global distribution, citing the company’s ties to big tobacco. In December 2022, following a 25-month advocacy effort, Medicago revealed that PMI had been removed from the collaboration and its majority shareholders absorbed its shares. This development represented a huge win for global public health, ensuring that the control of one pandemic does not compromise the control of another.

Uruguay's Tobacco Epidemic Research Center (CIET) and the Uruguayan Tobacco Society (SUT) were recognized with a joint award for protecting the implementation of plain packaging of tobacco products in their country, a policy adopted in 2019. In 2022, following a decree that weakened this measure, the two organizations coordinated with regional partners to warn of the potential risk of weakening plain packaging regulations. SUT initiated amparo proceedings to suspend the decree, and more recently demanded its annulment.

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. It aims to raise awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.

The theme of World No Tobacco Day 2023 is Grow food, not tobacco. The campaign is aimed at encouraging governments to end tobacco growing subsidies, and to use the savings to help farmers switch to more sustainable crops that improve food security and nutrition for the world's population.


This page was updated on 12 October 2023: USA, Corporate Accountability has been added to the official list of award recipients. This awardee fulfilled the requirements of the call for nominations within the established timeframe.