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Press Room

Statement from José Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies on World No Tobacco Day, May 31, 2020:

“For over a decade, Vital Strategies has worked with governments in more than 40 countries to change policies—and attitudes—around the acceptability of tobacco use. Thanks to a global collective effort, tobacco use has fallen by around 60 million people since 2000.

Despite these advances, tobacco use is still killing 8 million people a year. Right now, the world is experiencing an unprecedented crisis with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading rapidly in communities in every country. Emerging data is now showing a connection between smoking and severe cases of COVID-19. In a review by the World Health Organization (WHO), public health experts found that smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19, compared to non-smokers. 

The burden of COVID-19 has been significant and felt globally, devastating people and health systems around the world. Governments now face a pandemic exacerbated by tobacco use and the illnesses tobacco is already linked to, including all four of the most common noncommunicable diseases: cancer, heart disease, lung disease and diabetes.

Now is the time for governments to invest in health. Countries can reduce smoking and encourage quitting by enacting and enforcing effective national tobacco control laws,including the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and MPOWER package, and supporting communication campaigns that build local capacity and raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco.

Vital Strategies has long worked with governments to deliver evidence-based and effective mass media campaigns. To mark World No Tobacco Day, we’re launching over a dozen global campaigns and initiatives that will reach youth and adults through social media channels, TV, radio, and virtual events. Campaigns echo this year’s World No Tobacco Day focus to protect youth from tobacco use and from the tobacco industry’s manipulation. These include 10 Ways the Tobacco Industry Targets Youth from STOP and “Don’t Start,” #CutOffTobacco, a social media campaign from Indonesia that will run across eight countries and encourage youth to post a meaningful photo with a caption of why they’ll quit smoking or why they’ll never start using tobacco. 

At Vital Strategies, we’re committed to ensuring everyone, everywhere, is protected by a strong public health system, and that includes protection from the harms of tobacco and the tobacco industry. On World No Tobacco Day we urge governments to join our critical work: to promote tobacco control policies, protect youth from tobacco and nicotine use, and prevent the deceptive tactics of the tobacco industry. Together, we can put public health first and improve the lives and wellbeing of millions.”

For more information on Vital Strategies’ work in tobacco control, please visit:

About José Luis Castro
José Luis Castro is the President & CEO of Vital Strategies, where he has led a rapid expansion of Vital Strategies’ portfolio, working with governments to tackle the world’s leading killers, primarily in low- and middle- income countries. The organization now reaches into 73 countries and has touched the lives of more than 2 billion people.  

About Vital Strategies
Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our programs reach into 73 countries and help prevent death and illness from noncommunicable disease, reduce harm caused by environmental factors, and support cities as engines for public health. 

To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat. 

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Media Contact
Christina Honeysett, Vital Strategies:; +1-914-424-3356
Ally Davis, Vital Strategies:; +1-516-205-4203