International Advocacy Leads to Local and Global Progress


By: Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy, Managing Attorney at ASH

Throughout my time at ASH, I have visited the United Nations, both in New York and in Geneva, many times. But every single time I step onto a UN campus, I’m awestruck. This is where international change is made, and I am so proud to be an advocate in those arenas.

As ASH’s Managing Attorney, much of my time is spent on our Human Rights work.

Our goal is to protect the right to health of everyone against the harms of tobacco and the tobacco industry. Human rights law requires that governments protect the right to health of its citizens. We utilize human rights mechanisms, such as the United Nations Human Rights Council, to remind governments of those obligations.

In order to ensure that international mechanisms like the United Nations Human Rights Council or the Committee on the Rights of the Child (and many others) address the harms caused by tobacco, we advocate at several levels.

First, we advocate with the human rights body itself. We respond to calls for input and meet with representatives and write letters to highlight to them that tobacco is a human rights issue and is well within their jurisdiction, and we call on them to do something about it by holding governments to account.

We also encourage our colleagues around the world to utilize human rights mechanisms, by submitting reports and making oral statements when their home countries are in front of human rights bodies. International law can be complex and intimidating, so we train our allies on this approach and provide technical assistance as they advocate for the right to health in their country.

We’ve seen success at the international level. Our advocacy ensured that tobacco was included in a recent comment from the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, which will help ensure that people of all races are protected from the harms of tobacco.

We’ve also seen success at the local level; our allies in Washington D.C. used human rights arguments to help pass a menthol ban. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is when I see my fellow advocates utilizing human rights strategies to achieve success in their anti-tobacco policies.

I do this work because I believe passionately that companies should not be able to sell products that hurt or kill people when used as intended. As a society, we cannot allow corporate greed to take precedence over public health.

As a mother of three young children, I often think about the kind of world we are creating for the future. I’m proud to be on the ASH team; where the good guys are fighting every day against the big, bad tobacco corporations. We still have some dragons to slay, but with your support, I’m confident that the story will have a happy ending.

As a reminder, December 31st is the LAST DAY to make a tax-deductible donation to ASH in 2023 and to have your donation MATCHED up to $30,000. Please consider making a donation today to build a tobacco-free world for our children.

Thank you for your support.