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Uruguay reduced smoking rates from 25 percent in 2009 to 21.6 percent in 2017, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS).

GATS is a worldwide standard to monitor tobacco use among those who are 15 years and older. These numbers confirm a steady downward trend since 2006, when almost 40 percent of adults smoked – one of the highest rates in Latin America.

The survey, released this week by the Uruguayan Ministry of Health, also shows a declining exposure to second-hand smoke in homes (from 29 percent to 20 percent), workplaces (from 16.5 percent to 11 percent), and other public venues. The drop was particularly dramatic in universities, from 27 percent to 11 percent.

“This is the result of implementation of strong policies and unwavering commitment to public health,” said Gan Quan, Director of The Union’s Department of Tobacco Control, “Uruguay remains a courageous global leader in tobacco control – consistently putting people’s health above the interests of Big Tobacco.” In 2016, Uruguay won a six-year international legal battle launched by Philip Morris International – one of the world’s smallest countries claiming a significant victory over one of the world’s largest corporations.

The Union has worked with Uruguay since 2014, providing technical, legal, and financial assistance to strengthen policy infrastructure, evaluate policy impacts, and improve enforcement. A five-year strategic tobacco control plan to guide government actions during President Tabaré Vázquez current tenure is an outcome of that collaboration. The Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use provides the funding for these activities.

The Union currently backs a government-sponsored bill of law for plain packaging of tobacco products, an upcoming regulation of flavours and additives, and an impact evaluation of tobacco taxation. Tobacco excise taxes have been several times in Uruguay since 2014, keeping the adjustment over the inflation rate and bringing the overall tax burden to around 70 percent of retail prices.

“The GATS results are very encouraging, particularly when we see that most of the decline in tobacco use is among 15-24 year-olds,” said Mirta Molinari, The Union’s Regional Director for tobacco control in Latin America. “However, there is much yet to be done. Consumption among women, for instance, only fell by two percent in absolute terms, much less than among men. We know the government of Uruguay will soon make a targeted communication effort to address this issue. Other policies in the pipeline, such as plain packaging and additive regulation, should also help to curb industry marketing to younger women.”

In 2006, Uruguay became the first country in Latin America to adopt countrywide 100 percent smoke-free legislation. A sweeping set of tobacco control measures followed, including graphic health warnings that cover 80 percent of the front and back of cigarette packages; a full ban on advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, including point-of-sale displays; and a ban on the use of misleading descriptors terms such as ‘light’ and ‘mild’.



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The Tobacco Control Department is based at The Union Europe Office, Edinburgh, registered charity no. SC039880
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