As the region that hosts the seat of the World Health Organization, and with robust civil society networks in place, Europe sees some of the biggest advances in global public health. But it is also a region where significant challenges remain, including stubbornly high smoking rates and other growing risk factors. Rising incomes, sedentary lifestyles and changes in diet and the environment have contributed to an increasingly high burden of non-communicable diseases like obesity and diabetes. The rise of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis also presents a significant health threat.
In eastern Europe, where smoking rates have persisted at higher levels than in the west, Vital Strategies has partnered with governments and organizations to roll back the tobacco epidemic.
For instance, after six years of work in Russia in partnership with govenment and civil society, we have seen passage of strong national comprehensive tobacco control legislations. The new laws included smoke-free areas; complete restriction on tobacco product displays, advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and measures to restrict tobacco industry interference in public health policy.
Turkey has been at the forefront of tobacco control since 2008 when the Turkish government passed some of the strongest anti-smoking laws in the world, banning advertising and introducing smoke-free areas, providing air time for media campaigns and a commitment to raise taxes . The bill mandated 30 minutes of prime-time airtime on television and radio per month for anti-tobacco messaging. Vital Strategies worked with government to air hard- hitting public service announcements. By 2010, tobacco consumption had been reduced by an astounding 20%.
Vital Strategies has also run campaigns in Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Norway, Poland and Ukraine to help raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco and to help lobby local governments for stronger tobacco control laws.