UN health agency pays tribute to British tobacco control pioneer Richard Doll

The World Health Organization (WHO) has paid tribute to British epidemiologist Richard Doll, whose pioneering research established a link between tobacco use and major diseases that kill millions of people each year, particularly lung cancer and other smoking-related illnesses.Sir Richard, who died on Sunday aged 92, was one of the greatest epidemiologists of the 20th century, a tireless crusader for public health, and a strong supporter of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) that has its roots in the findings of his research, the agency’s Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI) said. “I remember the last time I had the pleasure to meet him, it was during a conference in Edinburgh last October,” TFI Director Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva declared. “He asked again about the Status of the WHO FCTC, he was delighted when I announced that it was very close to entering into force. I was once again charmed by his vitality and his tireless and continued commitment to public health.”The landmark UN treaty entered into force in February with a host of tools to clamp down on the world’s leading cause of preventable deaths, claiming nearly 5 million lives a year and causing an estimated annual net loss of $200 billion in treatment and lost productivity.Countries party to FCTC – there are already 74 – must restrict tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion, set new labelling and clean indoor air controls, and strengthen laws against tobacco smuggling. “His work paved the way for great strides in public health, particularly in the field of tobacco control,” TFI said of Sir Richard. “His studies have been the reference for the work of governments and civil society to prevent disease and reduce the death toll caused by tobacco, saving millions of lives around the world,” it added. “The Tobacco Free Initiative and the World Health Organization honour the life and work of Sir Richard Doll: his example, his work and his legacy to public health will continue to improve the lives of people all over the globe.”

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