(This is a first-hand account from Tom Glynn, PhD, Director, Cancer Science and Trends and Director, International Cancer Control, American Cancer Society, of a conference co-sponsored by the Society in Mumbai, India, that followed the conclusion of the 14th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health (WCTOH). Please see photos below.)
On March 13, the day after the closing of the 14th WCTOH in Mumbai, the American Cancer Society co-sponsored, with the World Health Organization (WHO) and others, a conference which established an International Human Rights and Tobacco Control Network. The goal of the Network is to use legal principles to challenge the tobacco industry in its efforts to compromise tobacco users' right to health.
The conference was opened by the former Chief Justice of the Indian Supreme Court, Shri Honorable Rajendra Baber, and Dr. Douglas Bettcher, Director of the WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative. Dr. Judith Mackay, a 2000 Luther L. Terry Award winner and Director of the Asian Consultancy on Tobacco and Health, led the conference participants through the goals for the day. Following that presentation was an extensive review of the legal instruments used by the United Nations (UN) to promote human rights, provided by Patricia Lambert, JD, former legal advisor to the Minister of Health, South Africa (also a 2000 Luther L. Terry Award winner). Finally, Anand Grover, the UN's chief human rights advisor, emphasized the importance of this issue for not just the WHO but the entire UN.
The rest of the day was devoted to strategic discussions of how the UN legal instruments could be used to promote the rights of health among tobacco users and what collaborative actions might be taken in order to work with global human rights activists on this initiative. Dr. Mackay closed the meeting by polling the conference participants, who unanimously agreed to the formation of the Network. It will be administered by Drs. Harry Lando, from the University of Minnesota, and Carolyn Dresler, former advisor to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The American Cancer Society plans to be an active participant in the Network, which will be a very useful complement to the wide array of other activities underway to reduce the burden of global tobacco use.