by Benjamin Gonzalez Rubio
For many years, Vital Strategies has worked with our partners in Mexico on programs to improve the health of its citizens. These efforts have helped usher in taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, and have helped educate citizens on the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco.
As a citizen of Mexico, I have been encouraged by the steps we have taken, and the progress that has been made so far. And as a member of this team, I am happy to be able to work on initiatives that improve the lives of the family, friends and fellow citizens of my home country.
As part of that work, I recently travelled to Mexico City to meet with advocates, media outlets and local partners working towards a significant milestone in the nation’s health: a Smoke-Free Mexico initiative. The goal of our meeting was to develop a strategy to make such an initiative possible, and to pave the way for a comprehensive series of actions to achieve effective tobacco control policy.
Our work runs in tandem with the efforts of other civil leaders, like congresswoman Maricela Contreras, who on August 16, 2017, presented an amendment to strengthen the General Law for Tobacco Control (LGCT). Currently, only 11 out of 32 states in the Mexico have enacted smoke-free legislation. Her amendment calls for a nation-wide smoke-free policy. Congresswoman Contreras’s amendment is one of 13 proposed amendements to the LGCT currently being proposed, calling for everything from plain packaging to increasing the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.
In order to make these initiatives a reality, we have been focusing on running effective mass media campaigns. Our goal is to raise awareness and build public support for these life-saving policies. Which is why we several media outlets, including state-affiliated media, have expressed their support in the effort to get this message out to the public. Working with these outlets, and speaking to national journalists who can reach the people who most need to hear this message, is the cornerstone of a strong public service campaign.
By the end of the meeting, we had developed a comprehensive strategy to get a campaign on the air by the end of this year, and had already discussed which messages would be the most effective. And fortunately, we already have significant public support for these policies. More than 90% of the population believes that second-hand smoke is harmful, and around 93% support the smoke-free laws. If we have the power to engage society through a petition, we will be able to mobilize a strong base of support to reduce smoking prevalence, and to save thousands of lives, in Mexico.
Benjamin Gonzalez is a communications manager for Vital Strategies, and oversees our tobacco control work in Mexico.