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Minister for public heath given World Health Organization Director-General Award

Public health minister Jane Ellison MP has been awarded the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Award for her efforts in overseeing the introduction of plain, standardised tobacco packaging.

The award, which also recognises Ellison's on-going commitment to tobacco control, came ahead of the WHO's World No Tobacco Day on 31 May.

On May 20, a legal challenge against the introduction of standardised tobacco packaging was defeated in the High Court.

In response to the judgement the public health minister said: “First and foremost, this is a victory for a generation that will grow up smoke-free.”

“Standardised packaging will reduce smoking rates and save lives, which will always be a top priority for this Government. We will never allow the tobacco industry to dictate our policies.”

In a response to the minister's award, Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on smoking and health (ASH), said: “Despite relentless tobacco industry lobbying the public health minister made sure that the government proceeded with the introduction of standardised 'plain' packaging of cigarettes.

“Her commitment to tackling the harm caused by tobacco is unquestionable and we are delighted that her work has been recognised by the World Health Organization.”

The theme of this year's World No Tobacco Day is “Get ready for plain packaging”, which the WHO said will save lives by reducing the demand for tobacco products.

WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan said: “Plain packaging reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products. It kills the glamour, which is appropriate for a product that kills people.

“It restricts tobacco advertising and promotion. It limits misleading packaging and labelling. And it increases the effectiveness of health warnings.”

Dr Douglas Bettcher, WHO's director for the prevention of noncommunicable diseases added: “Plain packaging is going global as more and more countries seek the important health gains it can bring to communities.

“The tobacco industry has been getting ready for plain packaging for some time, conducting massive misinformation campaigns to block the measure.

"So it is encouraging to see more and more countries defy the industry's tactics and implement plain packaging to reduce demand for tobacco products and put the health of their populations first.”