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WHO awards Orbán in fight against “tobacco industry tactics”

World Health Organization (WHO) General-Director Margaret Chan today formally presented Prime Minister Viktor Orbán with a World No Tobacco Day 2013 award in recognition of the Hungarian government’s non-smoking initiatives.

Orbán had been named as one of 37 individuals or entities to win the WHO Special Recognition awards given in recognition of “accomplishments in the area of tobacco control” on May 31, World No Tobacco Day. The Hungarian prime minister was only one of two heads of state to garner a nod aside from Turkey’s PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Other recipients from the European region included MPs Tetiana Bakhteeva and Lesia Orobets of Ukraine; Pascal A. Diethelm of Switzerland; Prof. Amanda Amos and MP Stephen Williams of the UK.

Chan noted the Orbán government’s “victory over the tactics of the tobacco industry” and cited such positive moves as the 2012 ban on smoking in all enclosed public spaces, the introduction of illustrated health warnings on tobacco packaging in 2013 and the National Tobacco Shop monopoly scheme’s implementation this summer.

WHO was also certainly pleased by National Tax and Customs Office (NAV) statistics which showed that the purchase of cigarettes throughout Hungary has declined dramatically since the National Tobacco Shop scheme went into effect: Sales in July were down some 39.3% month-on-month and 52.1% year-on-year.

In receiving the award, Orbán described tobacco interests are “behind the opposition to [nationalizing] the retail tobacco trade.”