WHO Report Shows Global Progress in Fighting Tobacco Use, but Countries Must Do More to Save Lives

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jul. 19 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A report card on the global fight against tobacco use, issued today by the World Health Organization (WHO), shows that while a growing number of countries are making important progress, there is still much more work to do to stand up to the tobacco industry and stop tobacco from killing one billion people worldwide this century.

The good news in the report is that there has been a big increase in the number of countries implementing the proven, life-saving strategies called for by the international tobacco control treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The evidence is clear that we can win the fight against tobacco by fully implementing these solutions, including tobacco tax increases, comprehensive smoke-free laws, tobacco advertising bans and large, graphic health warnings on tobacco products. Countries implementing these measures are reporting significant progress in reducing tobacco use.

However, the report also demonstrates the need for countries to act even more quickly and forcefully to win this fight. The tobacco industry remains the biggest obstacle to even greater progress. Tobacco companies are aggressively targeting low- and middle-income countries, marketing their deadly products to children and other vulnerable populations, and doing everything they can to fight proven strategies to reduce tobacco use. Just last week, investigative reports by Reuters and The Guardian detailed the massive efforts of Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco to defeat, weaken or delay effective tobacco control policies across the globe.

Today’s report should serve as a call to action for countries around the world to stand up to the tobacco industry and take bold action to save lives. In particular, the report demonstrates the need for countries to significantly increase tobacco taxes, which is one of the most underutilized tobacco control measures despite being the single most effective way to quickly reduce tobacco use.

The WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2017 – funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies – highlights extraordinary progress in implementing FCTC provisions in the 12 years since the treaty came into force. The report finds that:

  • Today, 4.7 billion people are protected by at least one “best practice” tobacco control measure from the FCTC, 3.6 billion more than in 2007, when the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use was launched to support implementation of these policies in low- and middle-income countries.
  • 55 countries have passed comprehensive smoke-free laws, protecting almost 1.5 billion people;
  • 78 countries have implemented pictorial warning labels covering at least 50 percent of the cigarette pack, protecting 3.5 billion people.

The new WHO report has a special focus on monitoring tobacco use and tobacco control policies. Effective monitoring is critical to identifying the prevalence of and trends in tobacco use, tracking the impact of tobacco control policies and strengthening the evidence base for such policies. The report shows that one in three countries have implemented tobacco control monitoring and that monitoring is possible regardless of a country’s economic status.

Tobacco use is the world’s No. 1 cause of preventable death, claiming 7 million lives and costing more than $1.4 trillion in health care costs and lost productivity each year. The WHO report makes clear that countries must act more quickly and strongly to fulfill their legal obligations under the FCTC to pass and implement life-saving tobacco control policies.

 

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