Dr Mateusz Zatoński, a Research Fellow at the University’s Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG), has been posthumously recognised for his work by the World Health Organization (WHO), as part of its World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) Awards 2022.

Mateusz, who tragically died in January 2022 after a short period of illness, led the TCRG research team focusing on the influence of the tobacco industry on policy. He was instrumental in developing the UK Tobacco Industry Interference Index reports, and published widely, with a particular focus on evaluating the European Tobacco Products Directive, the efficacy of menthol bans, and the development of new flavoured products.

The WHO awards honour people who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of policies and measures contained in the world’s first global health treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and its guidelines. The posthumous recognition was awarded to Mateusz for his contribution to tobacco control work both regionally and globally. He was nominated for the award by TCRG, and his nomination was supported by colleagues from across Europe.

In their comments about him in the nomination, colleagues noted how: “Given more time, we have no doubt that he would have become a driving force in public health, helping to bring about the policy changes needed to overcome the tobacco epidemic.”

On learning of the award, Mateusz’s wife, Dr Aleksandra Herbeć, said:

We are immensely honoured and proud. Mateusz was born into, was growing up as part of, and then became a prolific contributor to the international public health and tobacco control communities. He remained professionally active till the very last weeks of his life. This WHO award is a beautiful acknowledgement of his fruitful lifelong commitment to the causes and values of tobacco control, and will be an important impetus for us to preserve and build on Mateusz’s rich legacy.

Professor Anna Gilmore, Director of TCRG, said:

We are delighted that WHO has recognised Mateusz and his contributions to public health in this way. His prolific academic record over such a short career is testament to his immense skill, productivity and dedication. We were honoured to have him as part of our team, and we will ensure his legacy by continuing his work and furthering the causes he held dear.

Professor Ian White, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bath, said:

As a University, we take great pride in our research leaders like Mateusz, and are delighted that his outstanding work has been so rightly recognised by this major award. His research with TCRG in Bath and with colleagues across Europe will continue to have a lasting contribution to global efforts to protect public health against the harms of tobacco. He will be very much missed.

Award ceremony

The presentation of the award took place on 24 May 2022, during a one-day conference on ‘Big Tobacco’s Greenwashing – a threat for tobacco control in the European Union’, organised by ACT-Alliance Contre le Tabac and the European Network for Smoking & Tobacco Prevention in collaboration with WHO Regional Office for Europe.

The award was presented by Dr Kirstin Schotte, WHO Medical Officer for the Tobacco Free Initiative, and accepted on behalf of Mateusz’s family by Dr Rob Branston of the University of Bath.