The Union applauds Uruguay's President Tabaré Vázquez's speech to the 71st United Nations General Assembly

The Union applauds the speech given yesterday by Uruguay's President Tabaré Vázquez to the 71st United Nations General Assembly.  In a determined address President Vázquez drew attention to subjects at the heart of The Union’s work, such as non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and tobacco use, and provided a much appreciated voice of support for our efforts to bring health solutions to the poor.

The Union’s Executive Director, José Luis Castro said: "President Vázquez has once again shown Uruguay’s commitment to public health by engaging with global leaders to ask them to work together on reducing tobacco use and the burden of NCDs. A major challenge in combating NCDs is encouraging governments to undertake the comprehensive framework of policies necessary to deliver progress. President Vázquez’s intervention today, on this global stage, gives the fight against NCDs – and tobacco use – a welcome boost. We support President Vázquez’s call for action, specifically for countries to fully implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and encourage other governments to join in this commendable initiative.” 

Uruguay has succeeded in implementing one of the most comprehensive sets of tobacco control measures in the world, and The Union has been closely involved in facilitating this. In his address, President Vázquez reflected on the immense challenges to this success, including the legal challenge from Philip Morris that Uruguay faced, and eventually won.

We are encouraged by President Vázquez’s continuing commitment to overcoming the epidemic of NCDs and by his call for all countries to implement the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control with “no fear of threats or retaliations from powerful tobacco companies”.

He also outlined to the General Assembly the unacceptable human and financial cost of tobacco use, pointing out that the direct cost of smoking in Latin America is an estimated $33 billion and that without effective measures to tackle the epidemic of NCDs, the global aim of poverty reduction – crucial to sustainable development - is severely jeopardised.

“Vicious cycles are easily formed”, he said. “Poverty exposes people to behavioural risk factors of non-communicable diseases and, in turn, these diseases tend to make poverty even worse.”

President Vázquez offered a positive vision for change: “It is not only possible to design and implement tobacco control and other effective strategies, but also to achieve positive results”, he said.

The full text of President Vázquez’s speech is available on the UN website