On World No Tobacco Day, Governments Must Protect Citizens from Big Tobacco

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
May 31, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, as countries around the world mark World No Tobacco Day, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids calls on governments to stand up to the tobacco industry and fully implement proven strategies that protect their citizens from the devastating harms of tobacco use and save lives.

Around the world, we have seen that when countries implement these proven measures, they can quickly and significantly reduce tobacco use. In the past year alone, countries from India to Ukraine to Uruguay have reported significant declines in tobacco use after implementing strong policies, which include tobacco tax increases, comprehensive smoke-free laws, large pictorial warning labels on tobacco products and tobacco advertising bans. These cost-effective measures work everywhere they are implemented – and should be adopted by every country. These and other proven policies are called for by the world’s first public health treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which obligates its 181 parties to implement effective measures to reduce tobacco use.

World No Tobacco Day is a reminder of the horrific toll of tobacco around the world and the need for every country to take strong and effective action. Tobacco use kills 7 million people worldwide each year and will kill one billion people this century unless governments act now to prevent it. Tobacco use is entirely preventable and disproportionately harms some of the world’s most vulnerable populations as more than 80 percent of the world’s smokers live in low- and middle-income countries, where the harms of tobacco use are further exacerbated by a lack of access to health care.

This year, World No Tobacco Day is focusing attention on how tobacco use is a major cause for cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, stroke and other serious conditions. In fact, tobacco use is the only risk factor shared by all four main categories of non-communicable diseases – heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and diabetes – which have overtaken infectious diseases as the world’s leading killers. We cannot win the fight against these global health challenges without winning the fight against tobacco.

Globally, tobacco companies like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco remain the main obstacle to greater progress in reducing tobacco use. These companies aggressively market their deadly products – often targeting kids – and fight life-saving strategies, suing governments and leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to defeat, delay and weaken the policies called for by the WHO FCTC.

Strong and persistent government action is needed to protect future generations from the devastating consequences of tobacco use. By implementing the proven measures called for by the WHO FCTC and standing up to the tobacco industry, governments can win this fight and save countless lives.