Tobacco’s Global Impact: Journalists from 13 countries trained at WCTOH2015

Eighteen distinguished journalists from 13 countries received fellowships to attend the National Press Foundation’s first training focused on global tobacco control. Held this week at the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi, the programme offers 2-1/2 days of intensive sessions prepping the journalists to attend the 5-day conference -- and cover the issue in their home countries.

Topics to be covered range from the impact of the first 10 years of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control; emerging threats, such as the growing popularity of e-cigarettes and sheesha; the ongoing challenge of tobacco industry interference in public health policy; and the conference theme – tobacco and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).  Tobacco use is a major factor for the NCDs, such as cancer and chronic lung disease, responsible for 36 million deaths each year – 80% of them in low- and middle-income countries.

As part of the training, the fellows have heard from such leading figures in tobacco control as Matt Myers (USA) and Prof Judith Mackay (Hong Kong). Myers heads the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which has been a driving force in all major victories against the tobacco industry in the USA since its founding in 1996. Mackay, whose work in tobacco control led her to be named by Time magazine as one of the most 100 influential people in the world in 2007, is a senior advisor to the World Lung Foundation and Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use. She spoke about the controversy created by the development of e-cigarettes, touted by some as a quit-smoking aid and others as a pathway back to smoking, especially for young people.

Some 280 journalists competed for the all-expenses- paid fellowships to attend the training – a reflection of the widespread need for excellent reporting on an issue that demands an understanding of the competing interests of public health policy, legislation and enforcement, taxation and trade agreements, national and personal autonomy and more. 

The fellows include highly experienced and award-winning journalists from Nigeria. Bangladesh, Russia, China, Brazil, Iraq, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Ukraine, Argentina, Kenya and Pakistan.

This Journalist-to-Journalist program is in collaboration with 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health. Additional funding was provided by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

For videos and summaries of this week’s presentations, visit