NEW YORK, December 7, 2020: Vital Strategies is deeply saddened by the death of Dr. Tabaré Ramón Vázquez, the former president of Uruguay who was a champion for the Uruguayan people and a leader in global health.
Under President Vázquez, an experienced oncologist, Uruguay took strong and successful action to reduce tobacco use, becoming the first smoke-free nation in the Americas and the first in the region to implement plain standardised packaging for tobacco products. President Vázquez and Uruguay secured a historic victory for public health in defending a costly and unfounded legal action from Philip Morris International against several of these policies, that helped to assert the right of governments globally to take actions that protect public health. This first-hand experience of the tobacco industry’s tactics informed President Vázquez’s warning to health advocates and governments not to fall for the tobacco industry’s supposed commitment to a smoke-free world.
President Vázquez continued to set an example by using his relationships with other global leaders and global meetings to highlight the urgent need to address the global epidemic in non-communicable diseases (NCDS) like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease and cancer. He adopted a collaborative approach, working with other governments, the scientific community and civil society on national and global efforts to reduce NCDs. He was also committed to the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals; addressing the UN General Assembly in 2016, he warned policymakers that the sustainable development goal of poverty reduction will not be achieved unless NCDs and the main risk factors associated with them—smoking, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle—are also addressed.
José Luis Castro, Chief Executive Officer and President of Vital Strategies said:
“I was privileged to know President Vázquez. His vision and commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of Uruguay’s people shone through, as did his commitment to sharing his knowledge and experiences globally to improve the health of all. He set an example for Latin America and the world, standing up to vested interests and speaking clearly on the links between the drivers of ill health, poverty and preventable death and disease. In a year when the interconnectedness of physical and economic health has never been more evident, that message continues to resonate. The world has lost a true leader who believed change was possible and that governments should be held to account. Our challenge and our best way to honor his memory is to continue this important work.”