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Barbados: Gale of change

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In recognition of outstanding achievement in cancer education and prevention, leading to the one of the lowest recorded national smoking rates in the world, Dr Tony Gale, director of the tobacco control programme of the Barbados Cancer Society, was awarded a World Health Organization (WHO) Tobacco Free World gold medal in May.

Dr Tony Gale receives his tribute from Dr Karen Sealy, Caribbea co-ordinator of the Pan American Health Organisation; Barbados health minister, the Honorable Liz Thompson, left, is holding the medal.

Dr Gale began his work with the society in 1985, and has since been a prominent media spokesman, leading the only programme in the country that has continuously worked on tobacco. Information has been disseminated via the news media, press articles, 'phone-in programmes, radio and television advertising spots, and cessation groups. The trends in Barbados have been spectacular. Surveys by government agencies showed that between 1982 and 1993, tobacco consumption in Barbados declined by 32%, with daily smoking prevalence among adults of 15–60 years of only 9% in 1993. Admittedly, 82% of adults said they had never smoked, but Dr Gale's work had obviously reached them: a massive 98% said they objected to other people's smoke—a recent survey found that eight out of 10 employers ban smoking at work. No wonder, then, that the cancer society's programme was recognised not only by WHO, but by another evaluation, too, which Dr Gale may treasure almost as much as his medal. Despite BAT, which has 90% of the local market, flying in one of its notorious “hit squads” in 1996 (Tobacco Control1996;5:106–7) in a desperate attempt to fool people in Barbados into questioning Dr Gale's evidence and advice, it shortly afterwards closed the factory it had operated there since 1926.