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Dr Harsh Vardhan, India’s Minister of Health and Family Welfare, prioritised meeting with The Union’s tobacco control department during his visit to the World Conference on Lung Health in Barcelona, saying the tobacco epidemic was a prime public health concern.

‘Tobacco control is as important, if not more so, than the fight against tuberculosis,’ said Dr Vardhan, who was an ear, nose and throat surgeon for several decades. ‘It needs to be a priority.’

The minister said he had treated thousands of patients with terminal illnesses caused by tobacco use.

Earlier this month his government introduced new legislation quadrupling the size of graphic health warnings [GHWs] on all tobacco packaging. They must now cover 85 percent of the total surface area -- and are some of the strongest GHWs in the world.

The meeting, at The 45th Union World Conference on Lung Health, was attended by tobacco control advocates from more than 20 countries who were there to review policy outcomes from The Union’s work over the last seven years and to discuss strategies for 2015 and 2016.

Attendees included ministry of health representatives, research experts and members of civil society who have been working together to combat the global tobacco epidemic. Many receive technical assistance from The Union for developing and implementing tobacco control measures, as part of the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use.

 

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