Sport and the Arts without Tobacco


"Play it tobacco-free!"

The lives and accomplishments of sports heroes, leading actors, musicians and other artists are highly visible and attract widespread interest all around the world. Young people in particular look to sports stars and art performers as role models. It is fitting therefore that World No-Tobacco Day 1996 should be dedicated to the theme "Sport and the arts without tobacco". Athletes and artists can lead the way in promoting healthy lifestyles where tobacco use is no longer the social norm.

Every year, World No-Tobacco Day is a special occasion for the World Health Organization and people from all its Member States to call attention to the harm that results from tobacco use. It is also a day when governments, communities, groups and individuals together explore the ways through which they can stem the tobacco epidemic, and especially prevent young people from becoming addicted to this harmful substance. We applaud those individuals who have already given up tobacco use, and encourage those who still use tobacco to make a special effort to finally break free from this dependence.

World No-Tobacco Day 1996 is co-sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). These organizations have welcomed the initiative of combining sport and the arts to promote, jointly with WHO, the prevention of tobacco use. They too have fully realized the importance of athletes and artists as role models who can convince the public in general and young people in particular that a healthy lifestyle should be "smoke-free".

Communities and societies express themselves through their arts and culture. Promoting good health and a tobacco-free lifestyle in conjunction with cultural and artistic events will contribute not only to improving people's health but also to giving full expression to the creativity and vitality of different groups and cultures.

We also want to promote "sport for all" as the right for all human beings to participate in sport and physical activities for recreation and to improve their health and well-being. Regular physical activity is vital for good health: it provides protection from a wide variety of physical and mental ailments. Physical fitness and good health, however, can be ruined by tobacco use. It is estimated that about half of the adolescents who start smoking cigarettes and continue throughout their lives will eventually die from tobacco-related diseases. Not only smoking but all forms of tobacco consumption are extremely hazardous.

Unfortunately, the tobacco industry has geared its efforts towards developing positive images for its products through extensive sponsorship of sports and cultural personalities, organizations and events. In many countries, sport and the arts rely heavily on sponsorship from commercial enterprises, and tobacco companies are among the main sponsors. In many cases, sports and cultural events, which should celebrate good health, physical prowess, intellectual freedom and cultural independence are cynically used as an opportunity to promote addictive and hazardous products among the young.

In contrast, tobacco-free sports and cultural events are ideal venues to promote good health and healthy lifestyles. Alliances must be forged between the public, the health sector and all those who are active and interested in sports and the arts to sponsor sports and cultural organizations so that these no longer need to depend on tobacco sponsorship.

This has been done in many places around the world as illustrated by the examples attached in this Media Kit. Health organizations can sponsor sporting and cultural activities, and in so doing create major opportunities to convey their health promotion messages in novel and effective ways. Such sponsorship, however, requires resources. Some governments have generated new revenue for this purpose by increasing taxes on tobacco products, a measure which has also helped to decrease tobacco consumption.

The sponsorship of sports and the arts by tobacco companies is now widely recognized as ethically unacceptable. More and more people and communities are giving precedence to health and being able to live in a tobacco-free environment. With all the people and sectors concerned, WHO will work to promote tobacco-free events which celebrate good health together with excellence in sports and the arts - a winning combination for all!

Dr Hiroshi Nakajima