With U.S. Support, United Nations… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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With U.S. Support, United Nations Acts to Protect Global Health By Agreeing to Hold Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
May 17, 2010

Washington, D.C. — With the support and co-sponsorship of the United States, the United Nations General Assembly has taken an important step to protect global health by unanimously agreeing to hold the first-ever summit on the threat posed by non-communicable diseases to low- and middle-income countries. The summit, involving heads of state, will be held in September 2011. We applaud the U.N. General Assembly for taking this important action and the United States for providing leadership by co-sponsoring the resolution to hold the summit.

The summit will elevate awareness of non-communicable diseases to the global stage and focus necessary attention on the diseases that are projected to account for more than 75 percent of deaths worldwide by 2030. Non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory disease claim more than 35 million lives each year and could cost the world in excess of a trillion US dollars annually.

Tobacco use is the most significant risk factor for many of these diseases, underscoring the need for comprehensive tobacco control measures to be part of any effective strategy to reduce non-communicable diseases. Tobacco use is so devastating to the human body that it is a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of death in the world. The World Health Organization states that tobacco use already kills 5.4 million people a year and the epidemic is worsening, especially in the developing world where more than 80 percent of tobacco-caused deaths will occur in the coming decades. Unless urgent action is taken, one billion people will die worldwide from tobacco use this century.

To reduce non-communicable diseases, nations must more quickly and effectively implement the cost-effective and scientifically proven measures called for by the international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. These measures include higher tobacco taxes; large, graphic health warnings on tobacco packs; bans on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and implementation and enforcement of comprehensive smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces and public places.

The summit will bring together public health experts and government officials from around the world to assess the dangers posed by non-communicable diseases and to develop a strategic response. To bring about real change that saves lives and improves global health, it will be critical that the United States and all nations follow up with concrete action, funding and political support.