Conference on Tobacco or Health: A life-changing experience

Although our efforts to reduce Tobacco use face a powerful opponent, the scientific evidence you will be presenting during this conference is a power that must ultimately prevail.”  It is with those strong and wise words that the honorable Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO has launched the beginning of the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health, in Abu Dhabi on March 17th.

ConferenceTobacco_1Attending the Conference as youth delegates has been a great privilege, not only because we were part of a large team of peers, physicians, doctors, and public health officers, who all contributed into a “ No More Tobacco in the 21th Century” Goal, but also because we were able to raise our voices on behalf of medical Students worldwide as well. We had the honor of working with other youth delegates, some of them we knew from IFMSA network, and that is something that we profoundly appreciated and enjoyed.

We did a presentation during the opening plenary of the youth conference on the role of medical students in achieving a Tobacco-free future, and highlighted the recent activities of IFMSA in this field. We also had the pleasure to facilitate and present a workshop in the Youth Pre-Conference on “role of youth advocates in the Tobacco Control” along with one of our colleague from the IFMSA, Alaa Ibrahim, the Regional Assistant of Training Support Division in Africa. I couldn’t be happier of the feedback we got from that session. The Youth pre-Conference Program progressed through two days, in which we all worked tirelessly into making the sessions and discussions productive, efficient, and memorable. Have a look at the Youth Declaration through this link:

The Opening Ceremony was impressive, as we sat next to the most prominent PhD researchers, analysts, physicians and experts in tobacco. The live panel discussed, chaired by an experienced journalist, welcomed guests such as Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired and Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director in EMR. We realized how lucky we were to be part of this event, and how powerful our voices can be in a global issue so significant.

Dr Alaa Alwan, Regional Director for EMRO WHO Office
Dr Alaa Alwan, Regional Director for EMRO WHO Office

The next days were busy with the conference itself. We have with researchers from all over the globe, talked to the WHO-General Director, made friends from Mongolia, Thailand, US, Argentina, and earned a better insight on how to tackle effectively the global burden posed by tobacco and the industries. We even had the chance to meet an old IFMSA Public Health Director, who is now working as a physician. We exchanged a few words about public health, and he shared some tips and tricks on what we can do to empower and enable the youth. We were left inspired.

This conference has left the youth delegates empowered to fight the tobacco burden globally and in our own communities. We have became more familiar with the new guidelines and most up to date strategies to fight the powerful tobacco industries. Throughout the workshops, we gained a lot of knowledge about tobacco taxation, the international legislations, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the MPOWER measures elaborated by the WHO, the human rights perspective, about how to manage smoking in impoverished communities, and much much more.

It’s really incredible how just five days can procure you all this. We can only hope that many of you will be at the 17th WCTOH Conference in 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa, and get a glimpse of the experience we had.

On a final note, we invite you to take a look at the 16th WCTOH Declaration here.

Entry written by Hani Hafez (SCOPH RA for EMR 2014-2015) and Cynthia Waliaula (SCOPH RA for Africa 2014-2015).

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