PAHO Press Release

PAHO Announces Winners of 'Clearing the Air' Contest
Brazil, Canada, Honduras, Jamaica, among awardees

Note: EMBARGOED UNTIL MAY 31, 2001

Washington, May 31, 2001 (PAHO) -- The Pan American Health Organization today announced the winners of a region-wide "Clearing the Air" competition, created to honor individuals and institutions in the Western Hemisphere that have made significant contributions to reducing exposure to second-hand smoke.

The six winners are:

  • Brazil's Health Minister José Serra for banning smoking in all public transportation vehicles;
  • Canada's Health Minister Allan Rock for implementing strong tobacco package messages about second-hand smoke;
  • the Honduran Ministries of Health and Education for making their facilities smoke-free;
  • the California-based nongovernmental organization Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights for supporting advocacy for smoke-free environments;
  • the Jamaican Ministry of Health for eliminating smoking in its facilities; and the Region of Waterloo in Canada for eliminating smoking in all indoor public places, including bars and restaurants

In addition to the award winners, honorable mentions were given to: the Government of Mexico for restricting smoking in all federal and federally regulated buildings; to Gilles Baril, Junior Minister of Health, the Province of Quebec, Canada for effectively implementing Quebec's ban on smoking in workplaces; to the Municipality of Callao, Peru for banning smoking in the Jorge Chavez International Airport and for severely restricting smoking in public places; to the Municipality of Kimmirut in Nunavut, Canada, for achieving a virtually smoke-free community; and to "Monica's Gang," the world-renowned cartoon characters who have lent their good names to public information campaigns about second-hand smoke.

PAHO Director Dr. George Alleyne urged governments, employers, private institutions, and civil society to add to the achievements of these winners by committing themselves to specific goals in expanding smoke-free environments.

The winners of the contest were announced in conjunction with the launch of the Smoke Free Americas initiative, a multi-year campaign to protect the public from second-hand tobacco smoke through promotion of smoke free environments. The initiative, launched on World No Tobacco Day, 31 May is intended to raise awareness of the harm caused by second-hand smoke and mobilize action to create smoke-free homes, workplaces, and communities.

According to PAHO estimates, between 122,000 and 209,000 nonsmokers in the Americas die every year from second-hand smoke, in addition to the 845,000 persons killed annually by direct tobacco use.

"Smoke Free Americas is a call to action, and an opportunity to create international momentum for smoke-free environments. Demand and provide smoke free environments, starting today, " urged Dr. Alleyne.

PAHO, which was founded in 1902, works to improve health and raise living standards in all the countries of the Americas. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization.

For more information, please contact: Daniel Epstein at PAHO in Washington, tel. (202) 974-3459, fax (202) 974-3143, Office of Public Information, email: epsteind@paho.org Internet: www.paho.org