The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Lezak Shallat – Coordination/communications for Chile Libre de Tabaco

Lezak 150pxLezak Shallat - communications for CHLTLezak Shallat works with the FCA member organisation Chile Libre de Tabaco (CHLT) or Tobacco Free Chile, where she is responsible for communications. CHLT is based in Santiago, Chile.

Many of the people initially involved with CHLT were looking at tobacco issues in relation to community health and the absence of women’s organisations in prevention. In 2009, this group named itself Chile Libre de Tabaco and broadened its objectives to tackle policy issues at the national level.

Since then CHLT has achieved many things, and last year the organisation was honoured with a 2011 World No  Tobacco Day award from the WHO/PAHO. Read on to find out more.
Five questions with Lezak about CHLT.

WHAT IS CHLT’S MAIN GOAL?

CHLT’s immediate goal is to improve tobacco legislation in Chile through the passage of a new Clean Indoor Air law. The current law allows bars and restaurants to decide whether or not they want to allow smoking. The reforms we are pushing for are under debate in Congress, so we hope we will have good news soon.

WHAT ARE CHLT”S FUTURE PLANS?

Once we achieve a smoke-free law, we would like to focus on tobacco prevention, especially among young women.

This is because CHLT’s roots are in its work with women, through its association with Fundación EPES (Popular Education for Health), a small, community-based non-government organisation that works on health promotion in low-income neighbourhoods in Chile.

We didn’t start out working on national policy – we were focused on women’s health issues. However, the more we learned, the more we felt the need to mobilise civil society to push the government to improve its tobacco control laws and stand up to the tobacco industry, That was around 2009.

WHAT ARE SOME OF CHLT’S ACHIEVEMENTS?

Thanks to the help and guidance of the international community, we got off to a running start.   In 2011, our work was recognised by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), which honoured us with a World No Tobacco Day award.

The citation described CHLT as a "group of dedicated individuals who advocate for stricter tobacco control laws in Chile. The group's lobbying and advocacy were instrumental in prompting legislators and policymakers to develop the 100 percent smoke-free legislation that was presented to the Chilean Congress in early 2011."

“In addition, CHLT has become the foremost public information source for tobacco control in Chile through its strategic use of information, analysis, lobbying and media work.”

WHAT ARE SOME OF CHLT’S CHALLENGES?

Our greatest challenges are the high smoking prevalence rates in Chile, which means that many people think that smoking is normal, even if they know it is harmful. And, of course, a very powerful tobacco industry with connections to the nation’s economic and political elites.

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE FCTC IN YOUR ORGANISATION’S WORK?

The FCTC is important in our work because it provides a template for strong national laws.

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