In March this year, Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization gave a strong speech on Galvanizing global action towards a tobacco-free world at the 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Singapore.
Her keynote address hit straight to the point:
Tobacco use is the world’s number one preventable killer. We know this statistically, beyond a shadow of a doubt. In a world undergoing economic upheaval, with populations ageing, chronic diseases on the rise, and medical costs soaring, tackling a huge and entirely preventable cause of disease and death becomes all the more imperative.
We know that tobacco directly harms the user’s health in multiple ways. We know that tobacco products kill their consumers.
We know that tobacco smoking, like a drive-by shooting, kills innocent bystanders who are forced to breathe air contaminated with hundreds of toxic chemicals. We know what tobacco exposure during pregnancy does to the fetus, another innocent, blameless, and entirely helpless victim.
We know that tobacco use is not a choice. It is a powerful addiction. The true choice is between tobacco or health.
Criticizing the tobacco companies’ dirty tactics, Dr Chan urged society to step in where governments are beginning to fail.
Experience has shown that, when government political resolve falters or weakens under industry pressure, coalitions of civil society can take up the slack and carry the day. We need this kind of outcry, this kind of rage.
Shaping public opinion is vital. If tough tobacco legislation wins votes, politicians will back it, and fight back against industry.
Dr Chan concluded with her own personal marketing campaign to the tobacco industry.
“We’ve come a long way, bullies. We will not be fazed by your harassment. Your products kill nearly 6 million people each year. You run a killing and intimidating industry, but not in a crush-proof box. Tobacco industry: the number and fortitude of your public health enemies will damage your health.”
…We can, and must, stop this industry’s massive contribution to sickness and death, dead in its tracks.
The full speech can be accessed on: www.who.int/dg/speeches/2012/tobacco_20120320/en/index.html
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