Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

Statement from the Director-General

31 May 2005

Photo of Dr Jong Wook Lee

31 May is World No Tobacco Day. The World Health Organization continues to raise awareness about the harm of tobacco, and continues to support governments to implement tobacco control strategies. Tobacco is still the biggest cause of preventable death in our world and it is vital to manage this epidemic to reduce the burden of disease and economic costs. Health professionals are key to success, underscored by this year's theme, the role of health professionals in tobacco control.

Doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists, pharmacists, chiropractors, psychologists and all other professionals dedicated to health can help people change their behaviour. They are on the frontline of the tobacco epidemic and collectively speak to millions of people. They can help people to quit by giving them good advice and support, and they should lead by example, by quitting smoking themselves. Health professionals in their clinical, research and advocacy roles have much to offer. As clinicians, they can advise and support their patients to help them break their tobacco dependence, and this will help to improve their health and to live longer lives. As researchers, they can produce the hard evidence that helps us hone our efforts in tackling tobacco. As advocates, they can speak out to paint the true picture of the disability, disease and death caused by tobacco, and encourage policy-makers to take action.

This is especially important now as the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is in force with over 65 Parties. Health professionals can have an important role to play during the implementation of the provisions of the convention in their own countries.

To realise the full potential of the health professional in tobacco control will mean concerted action by both health professionals and their associations. It will mean working with other health professionals, and building links to civil society. It will mean educating, motivating and building capacity among a whole new generation of professions in the field of health services. Health professional schools, public health, and education officials should work together to design and implement training programmes that provide the basis for effective interventions by all health professionals in the field of tobacco control. WHO looks forward to working in partnership with the health professional community to seize this opportunity. Together, we can meet the challenge. Together, we can make a difference by promoting tobacco-free lifestyles which could save millions of lives every year.