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Cancer charities launch international tobacco control initiative

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by Cancer Research UK | News

3 August 2003

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Cancer Research UK and the American Cancer Society – two of the world’s largest cancer charities – will today announce the first wave of grants for tobacco control campaigners in South America, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and Africa.

The thirteen grants will support the work of key campaigners as they try to stem the tobacco tide, particularly in the developing world. They will use the money to educate people about the dangers of tobacco and lobby their countries’ governments to sign, ratify and comply with the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

The awards will be announced at the 12th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Finland. The International Union Against Cancer (UICC), a partner in this endeavour, is administering the grants.

Smoking rates are declining across much of the developed world. To maintain the flow of cash into the tobacco industry’s coffers, it is now targeting some of the most vulnerable nations in Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and South America.

This will create a cancer time bomb in these regions – around half of all regular smokers will die from their habit. Smoking causes 90 per cent of lung cancers and is a major risk factor for at least eleven other types of cancer. These include mouth, throat, bladder, liver, kidney, cervical, stomach and pancreatic. It also causes heart disease, stroke and chronic lung diseases such as bronchitis and emphysema.

In the developed world, smoking causes around a third of all cancers. It is the most avoidable cause of cancer.

The campaigners will work to ensure that their governments ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and implement it. The treaty was agreed by the WHO’s 192 member states in May 2003. Its aim is to stem an emerging global tobacco epidemic and a subsequent public health disaster.

The FCTC’s measures include a global tobacco advertising and sponsorship ban, increased tobacco taxes, control of illicit tobacco trade and new guidelines on tobacco health warnings. It also highlights the importance of achieving smoke-free public places.

It is estimated that over 10 million people will die annually from smoking related diseases by the year 2025 and most of these deaths will be in the developing world.

The campaigners who will receive the grants are:

Saiffudin Ahmed (Bangladesh); Dr George Bakhturidze (Georgia); Dr Eduardo Bianco (Uruguay); Jin Sook Choi (South Korea); Muyunda Ililonga (Zambia); Shoba John (India); John Kapito (Malawi); Phillip Karugaba (Uganda); Dr Katerina Langrova (Czech Republic); Dr Ehsan Latif (Pakistan); Mirta Molinari (Argentina); Shanta Lall Mulmi (Nepal); Akinbode Oluwafemi (Nigeria)

Jean King, Cancer Research UK’s Director of Tobacco Control, says: “These grants mark an important milestone in attempts to stem the tobacco tide in the developing world.

“Tobacco companies know no national boundaries and operate on a global basis. Cancer Research UK, American Cancer Society and the UICC are now collaborating globally too but our aim is to prevent millions of deaths which are looming because of tobacco’s cancer time bomb.

“There are plenty of able and dedicated opponents of the tobacco epidemic living in developing and other vulnerable countries, but sadly they lack adequate resources or support. These grants can help put that support in place and really make a difference.”

John R Seffrin PhD, Chief Executive Officer of the American Cancer Society and President of the UICC, adds: “The FCTC will be the primary focus of the world tobacco control community in the coming years. The American Cancer Society is pleased and proud to join with our international partners, Cancer Research UK and the UICC, to provide support for the promotion of the FCTC in those countries where the tobacco epidemic is spreading at the greatest speed.

“The individuals and organizations whom are the first recipients of these awards are on the front line of global tobacco control and, if this support enables them to promote the ratification, implementation, and enforcement of the FCTC in their countries, the whole world – all of us – will benefit. We wish them godspeed as they embark on this important endeavour and pledge our continued support for the removal of tobacco as a global scourge.”