Dear Members, Dear Colleagues, Dear Friends,
These past months have been extremely busy for ENSP and I would like to express how grateful and proud I am to all our network members, more active than ever, for coming together to make tremendous progress on tobacco control issues.
First of all, on 2 March, ENSP organised with MEP Gilles Pargneaux an important event on the issue of track and tracing, to provide information and enable a transparent debate for members of the European Parliament on this sensitive issue. This event allowed us to make this rather technical topic accessible and digestible for all participants, and reiterate the message that the tobacco industry should be kept out of all the discussions as well as the decision making process. Amongst all participants, we had journalists from Euractiv and DODS who covered the roundtable in great details.
Then at the end of March, the European tobacco control community met in Porto (Portugal) for the seventh edition of ECToH. Over two and a half days, new and familiar faces were welcomed by a warm speech from HM The Queen Letizia of Spain. ENSP organised three parallel sessions, showing the wide spectrum of the network’s expertise and activities. It was heartwarming to see many of our friends there, and on behalf of ENSP, I would like to congratulate our colleagues from the European Cancer Leagues and the Portuguese Cancer League for an impeccable organisation.
In April, along side with representatives of the WHO FCTC Secretariat, members of the ENSP team in Brussels went to Tbilisi (Georgia) to advocate for a comprehensive smokefree legislation to high level policy makers. Despite strong visible tobacco industry interference all along the discussions and debates, the Parliament voted in favour of the adoption of the new law, which prohibits tobacco product advertising, requires the increase of cigarette packs picture warning from 30% to 65% and most importantly a total smoking ban in work places (with some exceptions). Sealed with the President Margvelashvili signature of the bill into law on 30 May, this adoption is not only a great success for our Georgian colleagues who have been advocating for those measures for so many years but also another important step forward for tobacco control in Europe. This is another ture victory for us. This new milestone should shake and weaken further the tobacco industry’s foundations, despite aggressive attacks and offensive strategies.
When opening the Second ENSP International Conference on 24 May in Athens, standing in front of a full plenary room of over 300 delegates, I could not help but tell myself how glad and happy I was. Indeed, the last time I happened to be in this the city was in 2015. ENSP organised a network meeting. We were no more than 35 participants. I just had been elected as the new President. We were discussing about the “new” Tobacco Product Directive, soon to come into force. ENSP just came out of some dark times, with serious financial difficulties. We also lost some members along the way. The Brussels team consisted of Cornel, and only Cornel. What a difference two years make. Standing in front of all those delegates and welcoming them to our event made me think that we have come a long way, and the challenging times are behind us.
ENSP is the most important network of organisations working in tobacco control in Europe, and this for the last 20 years. With more than 50 members in 35 Countries, 23 Member States and 12 Non-EU, we are celebrating this year our 20th anniversary. An emotional monograph called The Network has been produced, as a small gesture to thank everyone who has contributed to the ENSP story so far.
I shall not forget our strategic partners who have been working with us hand in hand on so many issues, whether it is in prevention, treatment or research.
Talking about research and partners, ENSP is involved in many major EU research projects and we can count on our partners, with whom we are collaborating closely to provide and generate strong evidence in order to ensure that tobacco control policies are strong, unquestionable and undisputable. We all know how aggressive, how desperate, how deceiving the tobacco industry can be!
And finally, standing in front of all those guests, I felt the trust and the confidence shown by each to ENSP. As some people might remember, despite very difficult conditions last year with two terrorist attacks, we maintain our first international conference in Brussels, where we welcomed 190 delegates in a full capacity. This year, over 300 registered from 44 different countries! Who would have believed this just two years ago? This is a great indication that we must be doing something good; this is also a strong message that we must be doing something right. This would not have been possible without the hard work of every team member in Greece and Belgium, and the contribution of each of the presenters throughout the three days.
And last, but not least, ENSP celebrated World No Tobacco Day this year in due form by organising two events. The first one was a press conference to call for a Europe United Race against Tobacco to highlight the need for countries in the whole region to come together and commit to tobacco control. All presenters, including representative from WHO, EU Commission, country representatives and partners agreed that there are no winners if some countries are struggling to implement comprehensive smokefree legislations.
The second event we were involved in was organised at the European Parliament by Women Against Lung Cancer in Europe, in partnership with the European Respiratory Society, European Lung Foundation and Insieme Contro il Cancro. It aimed at highlighting the need for EU Member States to implement WHO FCTC Article 14, and provide national tobacco dependence treatment at national level. In parallel, Smoke Free Partnership hosted a policy debate on the official WHO theme: “Tobacco, a threat to development”. All these activities really showed the dynamism, the energy and the vitality of our community, to the point that industry’s front groups decided to organise a counter-event on exactly the same day. This is to me the nicest compliment they can pay us, and the greatest tribute to our work. When the tobacco industry is kicking a fuss, when it complains, when it counter-attacks, then we know that it must feel threatened. This is the “Scream Test”. So please join us, let’s do everything we can to make it scream, to make it scream further, to make it scream louder.
Francisco Rodriguez Lozano