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Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, launched her keynote speech on tobacco control and non-communicable diseases at WCTOH, with the words of a current Marlboro campaign: ‘Don’t be a maybe’ -- urging decisive action against the tobacco industry.

Warning countries against the ‘wavering of resolve’ that can be exploited by Big Tobacco, Dr Chan encouraged those facing vigorous opposition: ‘If they fight strongly, you will have hit them where it hurts.’

Australia and Uruguay are amongst many countries currently engaged in legal battles with the tobacco industry over strong tobacco control measures to protect public health.

In a further subversion of Marlboro’s marketing, Dr Chan called on countries to ‘be true’ to the evidence, ‘be bold’ in tobacco control implementation, and ‘forever forward’, staying one step ahead of the tobacco industry.

Dr Chan’s speech opened a high-level ministerial plenary on tobacco control and NCDs, which focussed on 2011’s pivotal political declaration by WHO member states -- formally recognising these diseases as a major threat to health, economies and societies. Tobacco use is the greatest preventable risk factor for NCDs, which claimed 38 million lives in 2012.

Within the Global Action Plan for NCDs, developed as a result of the 2011 declaration, countries committed to achieving a 30% relative reduction in tobacco use by 2025, and a reduction of premature mortality through NCDs by one third by 2030.

This plenary described NCDs as a priority within the development agenda.  And WHO committed to strengthening its internal capacity to support member states towards these goals.

 Speakers at this session included: WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Dr Ala Alwan; Minister of Health for UAE, Mr Abdul Rahman bin Hamd Al-Owais; Minister of Health for South Africa, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and Minister of Health for Turkey, Dr M. Muezzinoglu. Discussions were led by BBC presenter Zeinab Badawi.

The plenary was streamed live and has a photo gallery.

 

 

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