This year’s World No Tobacco Day comes at a time when the tobacco industry is taking ever more aggressive steps to undermine efforts to reduce the global menace of tobacco. While governments and the international health community try to implement effective measures to contain tobacco use and protect the health of people, their efforts are being aggressively opposed by an industry whose products kill people.
Tobacco kills by causing cancer, heart disease and respiratory diseases. It is one of the leading preventable risk factors for non-communicable diseases. Every year, about 5 million people die because they use tobacco. Another 600,000 people die from exposure to second-hand smoke.
Tobacco takes a pervasive, heavy toll. It hinders development and worsens poverty. Tobacco and poverty create a vicious circle since it is the poor who smoke most and bear the brunt of the economic and disease burden of tobacco use. Money spent on tobacco cannot be used to pay for food, education and health care. And tobacco use is growing fastest in low-income countries that are least equipped to deal with its consequences.
The world has established effective tools to fight tobacco use and protect public health policies from being diluted by the tobacco industry. The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control -- with 174 Parties -- became one of the most rapidly embraced treaties in United Nations history after it entered into force in 2005. In the Political Declaration adopted at the High Level Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases last year, the international community reiterated its determination to reduce tobacco consumption and availability.
Tobacco control is essential to achieving our global development goals. If we do not step up our efforts to control it, tobacco could kill up to one billion people this century. The interests of the tobacco industry and of public health are directly opposed. Since the Framework Convention came into force the tobacco industry has been battling against protective measures with no thought for peoples’ health. But we are making progress. Some countries have reduced smoking by up to 25 per cent within only three years from implementing strong tobacco control measures in line with the Framework Convention.
On this observance of World No Tobacco Day, I urge all governments and civil society to prevent the tobacco industry from derailing the implementation of the Framework Convention. Let us resist the industry’s attacks and pursue our vision of a tobacco-free world.