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WHO European Region Member States commit to denormalizing tobacco

Copenhagen and Vilnius — Ministers of health from the 53 Member States of the WHO European Region signed up to a roadmap that will make it possible for coming generations to make tobacco a thing of the past. The roadmap was presented to the 65th session of the Regional Committee for Europe in Vilnius, Lithuania,

“The generation growing up now cannot comprehend that people used to smoke on airplanes, buses, in restaurants or in offices. The achievements of the past 20 years show that the dream of a Europe where tobacco control has succeeded is not unrealistic. The gains will be huge if tobacco control succeeds, but there is hard work ahead. Governments must fully implement the measures in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and define a common goal: a Europe where tobacco is not a social norm,” said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, Regional Director for Europe.

In Turkmenistan in December 2013, Member States adopted a declaration with a vision of a Europe in which tobacco is a thing of the past. The roadmap follows up on that commitment.

Denormalizing tobacco

The roadmap lists the actions with the greatest impact in specific areas. One area involves the denormalization of tobacco, by:

– enforcing smoke-free legislation, especially in children’s environments, such as schools and child care facilities, private homes and cars carrying children;

– enforcing comprehensive bans on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and working with the entertainment industry on the portrayal of smoking and the placement of tobacco products in the media; and

– increasing public awareness through educational initiatives to prevent young people from starting to smoke, informing them about the risks of children exposed to second-hand smoke, particularly in cars and homes, and training health care and family support workers to deliver brief interventions for smoking cessation as a routine part of their work.

Scotland has set the goal of creating a generation of young people who do not want to smoke, by “denormalizing” measures, such as smoke-free laws in places where children gather, peer-based prevention programmes for adolescents, targeting parents for cessation and encouraging families to have smoke-free homes.

A call for international cooperation

No government can succeed on its own in banning tobacco, as advertising, illicit trade and trade policies are not limited by geographical borders. Some countries have announced a target year to end tobacco use in their populations: Ireland by 2025, Finland by 2040 and Scotland by 2034. They are paving the way to a tobacco-free future by introducing plain packaging, banning smoking in cars carrying children and aiming for a tobacco-free millennial generation. Reaching this target will demand international cooperation to ensure effective implementation. The roadmap specifies the need for partnerships to make tobacco a thing of the past, closing the gap between countries to reach the common destination.

By signing up to the roadmap, countries have shown that Europe’s attainment of the global goal on tobacco use is within reach. Governments are urged to set national targets for reducing the use of tobacco by 2025 and promoting a cross-government approach to tobacco control involving ministries of health, finance, agriculture, education, environment, social affairs and trade.

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