July 26, 2013 : Renowned social activist Hemant Goswami has been awarded the coveted “WHO Award” for his public health and tobacco control work by the World Health Organization (WHO) in a ceremony at Hotel Samrat, Delhi today. The WHO awards are given annually to organisations and/or person for their contribution in tobacco control, and for demonstrating exemplary leadership in public health and tobacco control. Goswami has been given the recognition for his decade long continued contribution to tobacco control and public health.
Earlier, Goswami was awarded the “Global Smoke-Free Partnership Award” in 2008 by American Cancer Society and also the “Extraordinary Activist Award.” Hemant was earlier a member of the “National Tobacco Control Steering Committee” and the “Task Force on Tobacco” of Government of India.
Hemant is considered as one of the most vociferous voice against tobacco in India and abroad. Among many achievements of Hemant: he pioneered the smoke-free movement in India and is credited with single-handedly architecting Chandigarh as the first smoke-free city of India (and the first in the developing world) in the year 2007.
Goswami is known for his head-on strategic approach against the extremely powerful tobacco corporations and their lobbies. Wherein his pioneering ground level practical work has resulted in smoke-free Chandigarh, his legal initiatives has also given a tough fight to the tobacco industry. He has filed hundreds of complaints against the violation of the tobacco control legislations and taken the industry to court on many occasions for acting against the public interest. Recently, in 2012, after a five years long legal battle, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana ordered closure of all Hookah Bars and ordered registration of hundreds of FIR’s. As a result all Hookah Bar’s across Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh were closed down and FIR’s were registered against all such outlets.
Goswami is also the founder chairperson of NGO’s Burning Brain Society and Tobacco Free India Coalition. Hemant has created an absolutely new style of result-oriented 360 degree activism on tobacco control which has been recognised globally.
Speaking after receiving the award, Goswami pointed out that the Indian legislation against tobacco was too weak. He mentioned, “We should strive to put an end to tobacco on the lines of UN Convention on prohibition of psychotropic substances. If a product kills a million people every year, there’s no reason why it should remain legal. WHO convention is also incomplete in the sense that it does not envision ending tobacco, rather it only talks about partially controlling tobacco while millions die every year.”
Goswami informed that the WHO itself in its report mentions that, “The tobacco industry sells a product that, unlike any other legal commercial good, kills up to half of its regular users when consumed as directed by the manufacturer. There is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests. In one corner, the tobacco industry produces and promotes a product that has been scientifically proven to be highly addictive, to harm and kill many and to give rise to a variety of social ills, including increased poverty. In the opposite corner, many governments and public health workers try to increase the health of the population by implementing measures to reduce tobacco use. The tobacco industry recognizes the impact of these measures and actively fights against these efforts because of their negative effect on its sales. Time and time again, the industry has used its resources to halt these public health policies where it can, water them down when it cannot stop them altogether, and undermine their enforcement when they are adopted.”