World No-Tobacco Day 2017: Women Against Lung Cancer in Europe’s European Union Event on Primary Prevention

By Gian Piero Bandelli, MD, Federica Ferraresi, WALCE Advocate, and Silvia Novello, MD, PhD

On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day 2017, Women Against Lung Cancer in Europe (WALCE), in partnership with European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention (ENSP), European Lung Foundation (ELF), European Respiratory Society (ERS), Fondazione Insieme Contro il Cancro, and Associazione Italiana Pneumologi Ospedalieri (AIPO), promoted a double event in Brussels focused on primary prevention and smoking cessation. The initiative was a great success, both in broad appeal and in terms of the number of visitors.

On May 30-31, a 2-day exhibition entitled “Go out of the tunnel. Don’t burn away your future” was held in Place de la Monnaie (Figure 1A) in a structure shaped like a giant cigarette. Committed pulmonologists and oncologists performed counseling during the exhibition, and educational materials on smoking cessation were displayed. Attendees were offered a basic spirometry test; a total of 450 spirometries were performed. Over 600 people of all ages, mainly smokers, reviewed the exhibit and requested information on smoking-related diseases and smoking cessation programs (Figures 1B and 1C). There is a lack of knowledge in the general population about pulmonary function tests and about the wide array of diseases related to smoking history. For example, most of the people entering the exhibit did not know that 3.1 million people die every day due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, with cigarette smoking the major cause. The campaign also caught the attention of local television broadcasters and journalists.

Figure 1. A) External view of campaign exhibit for “Go out of the tunnel. Don’t burn away your future,” Place de la Monnaie, Brussels. B) Internal view of campaign exhibit: attendees waiting for spirometry, C) attendees asking for information.

In Italy, the program “Go out of the tunnel” has been organized as a roadshow. During 2015 and 2016 (from World No Tobacco Day in May until November, which is Lung Cancer Awareness Month) the tunnel toured 7 major Italian cities (Turin, Bari, Milan, Padua, Lecce, Messina, and Rome). Over 10,000 individuals have visited the tunnel, including young people, adults, and seniors, and more than 2,000 spirometries have been performed. In addition, the Italian Minister of Health, the Hon. Beatrice Lorenzin, attended the event in 2015 in Rome. In autumn 2017, a third edition of this campaign will take place, in 3 additional cities in Italy (Palermo, Turin and Ravenna).

Along with the tunnel exhibit in Brussels, on May 31 at the EU Parliament, a high-level event entitled “FCTC Article 14–Time to prioritise tobacco cessation and dependence treatment” (Fig. 2) was organized and hosted by an Italian Member of European Parliament, Alberto Cirio, and by a French Member of European Parliament, Gilles Pargneaux. The aim of this session, which featured the participation of the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Dr. Vytenis Andriukaitis, was to facilitate the implementation of World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control article 14 at a national level.

“Tobacco is a real threat to development,” Dr. Andriukaitis declared during the workshop. “It cuts lives short, weakens human capital and workforce, increases health and social costs – all this in countries struggling to cope with serious economic and social problems. And this is why tobacco control must be part and parcel of our efforts to reach the sustainable development goals–right here in Europe and worldwide. To ‘ensure healthy lives for all’—our key goal for 2030—we need stronger efforts to reduce smoking.”

Article 14, in fact, states that “each Party shall develop and disseminate appropriate, comprehensive and integrated guidelines based on scientific evidence and best practices, taking into account national circumstances and priorities, and shall take effective measures to promote cessation of tobacco use and adequate treatment for tobacco dependence.”

Delegates with valuable information and practices in place to advocate and guide this issue included (Figure 2): Prof. Silvia Novello (WALCE President and Full Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Turin), Prof. Galina Sakharova (WHO, from Russia), Dr. Carlos Jimenez-Ruiz (ERS Tobacco Control Committee Chair, from Spain), Prof. Francisco Rodriguez Lozano (ENSP President from Spain), Gilles Pargneaux (Member of European Parliament), Dr. Paraskevi Katsaounou (Athens Medical School), Prof. Martin Raw (University of Nottingham– UK), and Donal Buggy (Irish Cancer Society). ✦