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Dr. Margaret Chan’s Remarks at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health

The following are the remarks as prepared for delivery of Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization at the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi

Delegates, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

A warm welcome to the 2015 Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards for Global Tobacco Control.

This is an opportunity to put the spotlight on winning strides being made in countries in our joint efforts to combat the world’s single biggest cause of preventable diseases and early deaths.

This is also an opportunity to showcase the effectiveness of the MPOWER package of demand-reduction measures. As experience shows, these measures strike hard and fast to reduce tobacco use and protect youth from addiction to a deadly product.

We are honoring achievements, but we are also honoring courage. The latest tactic being used by the tobacco industry is intimidation delivered through threats of lengthy and costly litigation.

As the battle for tobacco or health moves into the courts, the very authority of sovereign governments to regulate in the public interest is being undermined. This is an extremely dangerous trend.

What industry is aiming for is a domino effect, where countries fall in their resolve, one after another, under the threat of legal action.

It is most gratifying to note that the domino effect is indeed happening, but the chips are falling the opposite way. Following the example of Australia, more than 10 countries are considering plain packaging.

This is the kind of courage we are honoring with these awards.

It gives me great pleasure to introduce Mike Bloomberg. He is a personal friend but also a great friend of public health.