Uruguay’s Anti-Smoking Success

Smoking cessation efforts in Uruguay have produced impressive results

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Health problems associated with smoking are a global health issue. Uruguay and Canada teamed up to see whether anti-smoking campaigns in Uruguay have worked.

A recent study showed the results of three surveys taken over five years in Uruguay about smoking.

Surveys proved that Uruguay’s approach to getting people to quit smoking was a major effort, but one that seems to have worked well.

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Geoffrey T. Fong, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo in Canada, led an investigation with Eduardo Bianco, MD, President of the Tobacco Epidemic Research Center in Uruguay (CIET), into the effectiveness of major anti-smoking efforts in Uruguay.

In 2004, Uruguay recognized the toll smoking was taking on its people, and ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Uruguay did several things to deter people from smoking.

They increased the size of the health and warning labels on cigarette packages from 50 percent to 80 percent of the package on both the front and back. These warning labels also included very graphic anti-smoking images.

National policy banned multiple branding techniques. Meaning, tobacco companies could not produce sub-brands of cigarettes with different labels to indicate they were ‘lights’ or ‘low-tar’.

The Uruguayan government determined that sub-brands gave tobacco companies a way to deceive smokers into believing that one kind of cigarette was less harmful than another.

Furthermore, higher taxes on tobacco products, education and support for people trying to quit and legislation for smoke-free public spaces and work environments were also implemented.

Dr. Bianco said, “Our government has taken a lead in Latin America, and indeed the world, by being the first to introduce such a comprehensive package of tobacco control policies.”

Three major surveys were taken in Uruguay from 2006 to 2011 to determine whether these policies were changing attitudes and habits of smokers.

Results of the study were encouraging. There was a 15 percent rise in smokers thinking twice about quitting smoking due to the increased size of the warning label.

Educational materials taught smokers that ‘light’ cigarettes weren’t less harmful. The survey indicated that there was a 14 percent drop in this belief.

There was also a 5 percent drop in the belief that ‘light’ cigarettes made quitting easier and a 4 percent drop in the belief that they were less addictive.

“We are delighted that this study proves that these policies are working.”

The ITC compared survey result from Uruguay to those from other countries. They found that in Uruguay, 91 percent of people know that secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer; whereas, in the UK and Australia only 80 percent said they knew.

This study was published on the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project website in August. Funding for this study was provided by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Research for International Tobacco Control (RITC), Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the National Cancer Institute of the Unites States (NCI). No conflicts of interest were reported.

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Review Date: 
August 12, 2012
Last Updated:
August 17, 2012