Passing of Tabaré Vázquez, former Uruguay president who was a giant in the global fight against tobacco
Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 6th, 2020 – The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is deeply saddened by the death of Dr. Tabaré Vázquez, the former president of Uruguay who set an example for Latin America and the world by courageously standing up to the tobacco industry and taking bold and unprecedented action to reduce the horrific toll of tobacco use. Motivated by his own experience as an oncologist, President Vázquez provided unmatched leadership, vision and commitment in fighting tobacco use, and his efforts have been a catalyst for life-saving change not only in Uruguay, but throughout Latin America and the world. Few leaders have done more to advance the fight against tobacco use, which kills more than 8 million people worldwide each year.
Under President Vázquez, Uruguay became a global leader in reducing tobacco use and a role model for its implementation of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). Uruguay became the first smoke-free nation in the Americas, implemented graphic health warnings covering 80 percent of the tobacco pack, banned tobacco advertising, significantly increased tobacco taxes, prohibited misleading terms like 'light' and 'low-tar,' and limited tobacco brands to single presentations in order to prevent deceptive branding. He also initiated efforts that led to Uruguay becoming the first country in Latin America to require plain packaging for tobacco products. These actions led to large declines in tobacco use among both youth and adults in Uruguay and inspired countries throughout Latin American to follow Uruguay’s example.
In a truly David vs. Goliath battle, President Vázquez and Uruguay bravely and successfully fought back against Philip Morris International’s attack on Uruguay’s laws as a violation of international trade and investment agreements. In 2016, President Vázquez and Uruguay achieved a historic victory for global public health when Uruguay’s laws were upheld. Uruguay’s victory was of global significance because it affirmed the right of all countries to protect the health of their citizens by adopting effective measures to reduce tobacco use. It showed that, with strong leadership, countries can stand up to the tobacco industry’s bullying and take action to save lives.The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in 2016 had the great privilege of honoring President Vázquez with our highest honor, the Champion Award, for his extraordinary leadership in the fight against tobacco use around the world. There is no better way for the world to honor him than to follow his example of standing up to the tobacco industry and taking bold action to save lives.