From more than 10 years, the Romanian Society of Pneumology has been a loyal and reliable partner for the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention (ENSP). The primary objective of our work together in tobacco control is to prevent all diseases caused by tobacco but above all to save lives. To do so, we need to not only prevent young people from taking up smoking, but also provide tobacco users with the most effective treatment available. Additionally, we should make every effort to reduce the exposure to secondhand by prohibiting smoking in all public areas. All three measures, preventing uptake, promoting cessation and prohibiting smoking in public places stand in direct opposition to the commercial objectives of the tobacco industry. For every step gained by the tobacco control community, it is three steps backward for the tobacco industry.
The Tobacco Industry has been described as the principal “vector” of tobacco related illnesses, and as WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said, “there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interest and public health policy”.
You will hardly find smokers who started using tobacco after 21. The tobacco industry knows it very well and invests all its efforts in recruiting new customers. The younger, the longer they remain consumers. For the industry it is just a matter of survival, with half of their users dying prematurely from their addiction, and within the remaining half, more and more people want to quit. Without any morals or ethics, the industry needs new blood to replace the ones gone, in order to meet its financial objectives.
Of course we, NGOs, Health Professionals, Scientific Societies do not have comparable financial resources like the tobacco industry, but we have something that they do not. It’s called “Credibility”. Our interests are clear: the health of the public, the protection of children and young people; while the industry’s are obvious: money, commercial sustainability and financial benefits. Recently, Ireland, the UK and France have introduced plain packaging as a measure to reduce uptake especially amongst young people. Other countries like Hungary, Belgium, Norway, Finland or Sweden have announced they will follow suit.
Earlier this year, Romania has passed a very important law that will help denormalising tobacco consumption and therefore protects future generations. Adults and children will realise that two-third of the population does not smoke, that a majority should not suffer from the habit of a minority.
On behalf of ENSP, I would like to provide you with my full support to the Romanian Society of Pneumology for a tobacco endgame in Romania. The objective to reduce the prevalence below 5% is ambitious but already positions Romania as one of the international leaders in tobacco control. And finally, I would like to praise Professor Florin Dumitru Mihaltan, who is finishing his mandate as SRP President, for his work and great achievements in the past 20 years, within the tobacco control community at national and international level. Congratulations and thank you for your dedication. Wishing you all an excellent RSP Congress 2016!