Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

July 1st, 2016:


Download (PDF, 616KB)

World-leading tobacco campaigner congratulated on honorary degree

Health campaigners have congratulated Dr Judith Mackay, one of the world’s foremost tobacco researchers and campaigners, on her receipt of an honorary doctorate from the University of Edinburgh on Friday 1 July 2016.

Dr Mackay received her medical degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1966, before moving to Hong Kong in 1967. There, she became one of the world’s leading advocates of tobacco control measures. Over a long career in South East Asia and around the world, she has advised many governments, NGOs and international organisations on how and why they should implement policies to protect against the harm of smoking.

Perhaps her greatest achievement has been the implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world’s first international treaty on public health. An initiative of the World Health Organisation, Dr Mackay’s efforts as senior policy advisor to that body helped to shape the treaty and take it from an idea to a reality which now helps to protect more than 90% of the world’s population.

In recognition of her efforts she has received many international rewards, including the WHO Commemorative Medal and the BMJ Lifetime Achievement Award, and was recognised in 2007 as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 people who shape the world.

Speaking about the award, Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive of ASH Scotland, said:

“Judith is an inspiration to everyone working to protect people from the harms of tobacco. Thanks to her tireless efforts, countless people in Asia and around the world have lived longer, healthier lives. I can’t think of a better legacy to celebrate than that, nor of a better inspiration for Scotland’s ongoing work to reduce the harms of tobacco”.

Dr Mackay herself said:

“It is with deep gratitude that I accept the honorary doctorate. It is an especial honour to share this occasion with today’s graduates, looking towards their future.

“My medical degree has taken me in unimaginable directions. I found myself in pitched battle with one of the most powerful commercial companies in the world. It has been as a particular honour to be identified by the transnational tobacco companies as one of the three most dangerous people in the world!

“I had to learn – on the job – how to become:

An economist, as economic arguments are what sway governments more than health arguments
Skilled in tax issues, in lobbying Ministers of Finance
An expert witness, cross-examined in court by tobacco industry lawyers in a brutal cigarette smuggling trial
A media expert, making public health newsworthy
An expert in law and trade, navigating UN treaties, free-trade disputes and litigation
A historian, utilising Sun Tzu’s 500BC “Art of War” strategies to counter ‘big tobacco’.

“The world is smaller than I thought: my work is surprisingly similar in different population countries, different political systems, and different stages of economic development. It is the same product, same harm, same obstacles and same actions that need to be taken.

“In my own profession, a medical degree enables graduates not only to become family doctors or specialists, in the UK or elsewhere, but to work in forensic pathology, population health, fathoming the workings of the human mind, or with DNA and life itself. In health sciences and in education also, your degree is a passport – you can use it to travel to many different destinations. My warmest wishes for your future, and thank you again.”


For further information please contact ASH Scotland on 0131 225 4725 or . Out of hours mobile 07776 142 299

Notes for Editors

Further details and photographs from the event (11am Fri 1st) from Edinburgh University press team:

Further details about honorary degree awards are available at

Action on Smoking & Health (Scotland) (ASH Scotland) is an independent Scottish charity working in partnership to protect people from the harm caused by tobacco. Registered Scottish charity number SC 010412.

Largest ever seizure of illegal tobacco in Spain

Just some of the tobacco seized Guardia Civil

Just some of the tobacco seized Guardia Civil

IN A joint investigation between the Guardia Civil and the Tax Office under the codename ‘Rosa’, two people have been arrested and a plant producing ready to smoke tobacco has been closed in what is described as the largest seizure of its kind in Spain to date.

Working with the Association of Tobacconists in Granada who had been heavily hit by this illegal operation, an investigation commenced in January 2016 which included checking web pages offering tobacco for sale.

It transpired that much of this tobacco was produced in unsanitary conditions without following legal production requirements with no tax being paid or declared.

Having identified three properties in Chauchina (Granada) the combined operation noted the arrival of leaf tobacco which was then converted to tobacco suitable for smoking and distributed throughout Almeria, Granada, Jaen and Seville.

After being satisfied that this was an illegal operation undertaken in breach of tax and health laws, the joint investigators seized a total of 95,000 kilos of tobacco, arrested two people, closed the premises and seized manufacturing equipment, records as well as a number of vehicles.

‘Tobacco Mafia’ or How Montenegro’s Authorities Sponsored Daesh

A group of Balkan journalists recently published an investigation called ‘Dossier Smoke’, which refers to the smuggling of cigarettes through the port of the Montenegrin town of Bar to Libyan ports under control of forces close to al-Qaeda and Daesh.

According to the data collected by journalists Marko Vesovic, Vladimir Otasevic and Hasan Haydar Diyab, the smuggling activities regularly took place in 2013-2015.

During this time, three and a half million kilograms of cigarettes were delivered to Libya from Montenegro, an amount which equals 140 million packs of cigarettes.

In an interview with Sputnik, Vesovic recalled that in 2001 the Croatian edition of Nacional magazine published data revealing connections between the “tobacco mafia” and the then President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic.

This network had beeing operating since the late 1990s. Now, the story seems to be repeating.

“The same Montenegrin elite are involved in a very complex system of organized crime, based on the smuggling of cigarettes to North Africa. In the 1990s they were smuggled to Italy, but then this route was closed because of pressure on the Montenegrin regime. Now, as we see, they found a new market,” Vesovic told Sputnik.

According to the journalist, credible evidence from the scene shows that cigarettes delivered from the port of Bar “found their customers in areas of Libya” controlled by terrorists close to Daesh and Al-Qaeda.

“This indicates terrorism in the Middle East was also funded by such cigarettes ‘deliveries’,” the journalist said.

According to the leader of the Montenegrin opposition party “Movement for Change” Nebojsa Medojevic, the smuggling activities “under the patronage of” the country’s leadership is not a new practice. The illegal deliveries have been taking place since 1993, and even resulted in Djukanovic’s conviction handed down by Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation in 2004.

“The sentence, however, […] has not entered into force due to the pressure of international intelligence agencies, primarily American ones, which insisted that the case should be sent to archive,” Medojevic said.

So far, the Montenegrin authorities have not reacted to the recent publication of the journalists which appeared several days ago. In Vesovic’s opinion, the authorities might also try to deny the allegations saying that all the laws and customs procedures have been met.

“Formally, it is true, but the Montenegrin supervisors did not check how product loading was carried out and who the final recipient was. If they would have checked this, they would have revealed that the product goes to territory controlled by the Islamists,” the journalist stated.

“The Customs Administration is aware of this all, but does nothing to prevent the obvious funding of terrorist and criminal groups. If the supreme prosecutor’s office were truly independent, then someone would be held responsible for this. I am absolutely convinced that Prime Minister of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic is personally responsible for what’s been happening,” the journalist stated.

According to Vesovic, documents to which only the country’s authorities have access could reveal other controversial details of illegal supplies.

“It is striking that not a single state has received even a similar volume of cigarettes from Montenegro, as Libya. Why Libya — we can only guess,” the journalist said.

Another interesting revelation made by journalists is that the shipper was the company “Liberty Fze” from the UAE, which has been cooperating with the tobacco factory in Podgorica for many years.

Journalist Vladimir Otasevic told Sputnik that the next part of their publication will focus on the companies outside of Montenegro, which have used the port of Bar to deliver cigarettes to Benghazi, which until February was under the control of militants close to al-Qaeda.