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Dr Nigel Gray

12.09.1928 – 20.12.2014

Nigel Gray, AO

Nigel John Gray, AO, was a pioneer of tobacco control both in Australia, and internationally. Director of Cancer Council Victoria from 1968 until 1995, and President of the Union for International Cancer Control from 1990 to 1994, he dedicated his life’s work to tobacco control.

Amongst his long list of achievements, Dr Gray galvanised cancer societies and others into a worldwide campaign on smoking. He instigated the use of forceful anti-smoking ads, pressed for health warnings, led public education and advocacy, helped establish robust behavioural research in both cancer and smoking, and played a crucial role in the campaign to ban tobacco advertising.

Dr Gray spearheaded the campaign for the Victorian Tobacco Act 1987, which banned all forms of outdoor advertising of tobacco products and established the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (now VicHealth) to fund major health promotion initiatives – replacing tobacco sponsorships in sports and the arts.

Nigel Gray, AO

Globally, he led development of the first comprehensive policy approaches to tobacco control, first for the Union for International Cancer Control, then for the World Health Organisation and other international health groups. He continued his work on tobacco into his ninth decade.

Dr Gray’s legacy has been honoured through the Nigel Gray medal (for outstanding leadership in tobacco control) and the creation of the Nigel Gray Distinguished Fellow in Cancer Prevention.

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Key milestones

Year Event
1968-1995 Dr Gray serves as Director, Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria and, in the words of former President, W Allan Dick, took the Cancer Council ‘from a highly respected medical charity into a cancer control enterprise affecting most Victorians'.
1968 Football legend Peter Hudson fronted an important campaign to highlight the health risks of smoking.
1971 Warren Mitchell, Fred Parslow and Miriam Karlin appear in several entertaining anti-smoking TV advertisements. Fred Parslow's send-up of the Marlboro Man was barred by TV stations, who were receiving advertising revenue from cigarette companies.
1973-1990 Dr Gray serves as a Member, World Health Organization Panel of Cancer Experts

Dr Gray led the work of the International Union against Cancer (UICC) as Tobacco Committee chair, then UICC Executive Committee member and President. 

1978 Dr Gray awarded the Member of the Order of Australia
1984-95 Dr Gray is Chairman Steering Committee of Victorian Smoking & Health Project (Quit Campaign)
1987 Despite intense opposition from the tobacco industry, The Tobacco Act, passed in November 1987, bans or phases out most forms of advertising of tobacco products in Victoria.

Dr Gray served on the committee and Board (Deputy Chair) of the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth)


Dr Gray was chair of the Program Committee for the 7th World Conference on Tobacco and Health, Perth


The Australian Government made history by passing the first-ever private member's Bill to implement a ban on print advertising of tobacco and tobacco products. This meant no more cigarette advertisements in newspapers and magazines.

1992 After decades of patient and persistent lobbying by Dr Gray to end the loophole in the Broadcasting Act allowing telecast of tobacco advertisements at sporting events sponsored by tobacco companies, the Keating Government passes the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992 which phases out most remaining forms of advertising of tobacco products in Australia 
1993-95 Dr Gray is Chairman, Australian Cancer Network (involved from 1970-2000)
1994 Dr Gray is awarded Officer of the Order of Australia.
1995- Following his retirement from the Cancer Council Dr Gray works in Europe; first in Milan and then in Lyon, France at the International Agency for Cancer Research. From this base he publishes powerful evidence-based arguments on tobacco control policy, in particular on the constituents of tobacco smoke and how to modify the risk. Over next decade he speaks in many important international tobacco control forums, thus greatly extending the impact of his ideas on the field.  
2002- Dr Gray continues his work as a Member of Special Advisory Committee on Tobacco Regulation of the World Health Organization

Nigel Gray Award for Achievement in Tobacco Control

Not everyone's achievements in tobacco control are publicly acknowledged. This biennial Award has been established by Cancer Council Victoria in recognition of our unsung heroes. It's peer-nominated, with applications judged by a committee of experts. The recipient will be announced at the Oceania Tobacco Control Conference.

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