WASHINGTON, May 16, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids will present Dr. Howard Koh, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health, and Nicola Roxon, Australia's Attorney-General and former Health Minister, with its highest honor, the Champion Award, for their tireless and innovative efforts to reduce tobacco use and stop the tobacco industry from addicting a new generation of smokers.
The two will receive the awards at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids annual gala on May 17, 2012, in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Koh has been a leader in tobacco control for the past 20 years, from his early days as a clinician to his current role as the 14th Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). His groundbreaking work has changed the way that tobacco control is conducted, and he is now leading a reinvigorated national effort to eliminate tobacco-related death and disease.
Dr. Koh is the primary architect of the first-ever national Tobacco Control Strategic Action Plan, which set the goal of "ending the tobacco epidemic." Key elements of the plan include the CDC's recently-launched, nationwide media campaign to encourage smokers to quit and prevent children from starting to smoke. The impact of this campaign has been immediate, with calls to telephone quit lines more than doubling – a trend that continues weeks into the campaign.
Dr. Koh helped unveil FDA's proposed graphic cigarette warnings, which will help prevent children from smoking, encourage smokers to quit and ensure that every American understands the dangers of smoking.
He also has been a leader in the Obama Administration's efforts to expand health insurance coverage for tobacco cessation under Medicare, Medicaid and private health plans, as well as for all federal employees. To focus national attention on tobacco, HHS released two Surgeon General Reports detailing the immediate harm from smoking and the still unacceptably high rates of youth smoking.
During his earlier tenure as Massachusetts' Commissioner of Public Health, Dr. Koh led the state's pioneering Tobacco Control Program, which dramatically reduced tobacco use and became a model for other states, the nation and the world. Under Dr. Koh's leadership, tobacco cessation programs were established across the state and most Massachusetts communities adopted smoke-free air policies.
As Health Minister, Attorney-General Roxon led the successful campaign to make Australia the first country in the world to require that all cigarettes be sold in plain, brown packaging, without colorful logos and other brand imagery and with the brand name allowed only in a mandated format on the pack.
As Attorney-General, she is now leading the legal defense of the law, which the tobacco companies have challenged both in Australia's courts and in international forums as violations of trade and investment agreements. Attorney-General Roxon has courageously stood up to the tobacco industry, which has poured millions of dollars into opposing Australia's law and directly attacked her.
In addition to plain packaging, cigarette packs in Australia will also be required to have graphic warnings that cover 75 percent of the front and 90 percent of the back of the pack. These historic actions will significantly reduce the appeal of tobacco products to children, encourage more smokers to quit and save countless lives.
Australia's global leadership already has led the United Kingdom, New Zealand and other countries to look to follow its lead on plain packaging.
"Howard Koh and Nicola Roxon are true champions in the fight to reduce tobacco use and save lives," said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "As Assistant Secretary for Health, Dr. Koh is leading a reinvigorated national drive to end the tobacco epidemic in the United States. As Australia's Attorney-General and former Health Minister, Nicola Roxon has provided visionary leadership as Australia became the first country to require that cigarettes be sold in plain packaging. We are proud to honor these brave pioneers in the fight against tobacco."
Dr. Koh and Attorney-General Roxon will be recognized at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' annual awards gala, a gathering of government, public health, civic and business leaders who come together each year to mark progress in the fight against tobacco. Tobacco-Free Kids will also honor its Youth Advocates of the Year, young people from around the country who have been leaders in the fight against tobacco.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States and around the world. In the U.S. alone, tobacco claims more than 400,000 lives each year and costs $96 billion annually in health care bills. Worldwide, tobacco kills nearly six million people each year and will kill one billion people this century unless countries take effective action.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its devastating consequences in the United States and around the world. Tobacco-Free Kids advocates for proven policies that prevents kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke.
SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids