Experts want a tobacco-free world in 25 years

In collaboration with the Press Association

Leading experts have called for a "turbocharged" global campaign that could lead to a tobacco-free world by 2040.

“Countries must support one-another in implementing the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control." - Chris Woodhall, Cancer Research UK

They warn that despite the decline of smoking in the developed world, tobacco use is expected to increase in some countries over the next decade, notably in Africa and the Middle East.

They claim that unless urgent action is taken there could still be more than a billion people smoking in 2025.

Chris Woodhall, Cancer Research UK’s senior policy officer, said the blueprint for a global solution already exists, in the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - which includes restrictions on cigarette marketing and the activities of the tobacco industry.

Countries must now support one another in ensuring its implementation, he said.

The call-to-arms in the fight against smoking comes in a series of articles published in The Lancet medical journal and will be launched at the World Conference on Tobacco and Health being held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Professor Robert Beaglehole, from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, who co-led the international group of public health and policy experts, said: "The time has come for the world to acknowledge the unacceptability of the damage being done by the tobacco industry and work towards a world essentially free from the legal and illegal sale of tobacco products.

"A world where tobacco is out of sight, out of mind, and out of fashion - yet not prohibited - is achievable in less than three decades from now, but only with full commitment from governments, international agencies, such as UN and WHO, and civil society."

Global tobacco regulation should be "turbocharged", with the United Nations taking a leading role in efforts to eliminate the sale and use of tobacco.

The experts pointed out that the falling demand for tobacco in rich parts of the world has caused the "big four" tobacco companies to turn their attention to low and middle-income countries.

Their alleged tactics included industrial litigation, lobbying through third-party groups, and covert maintenance of political pressure disguised as "corporate social responsibility" commented Woodhall.

“Smoking rates in wealthier countries have fallen thanks to effective tobacco controls such as advertising bans, rising taxes, restrictions on smoking in public places and limiting the sale of cigarettes.

“But with this success, the death and disease caused by tobacco has increasingly shifted to less wealthy countries. Tobacco companies make bigger profits than the GDP of many nations, leaving those countries vulnerable to exploitation and weakening of their public health standards”.

“Countries must support one-another in implementing the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which includes restrictions on cigarette marketing and the activities of the tobacco industry,” he added.

Professor Anna Gilmore, co-author from the University of Bath, said: "Contrary to industry claims, tobacco marketing deliberately targets women and young people.

"The tobacco industry continues to interfere with governments' efforts to implement effective tobacco control policies. If the world is to become tobacco-free, it's vital that the industry's appalling conduct receives far closer scrutiny, and countries which stand up to the industry's bullying tactics receive better global support."

References

  • Bilano V. (2015). Global trends and projections for tobacco use, 1990–2025: an analysis of smoking indicators from the WHO Comprehensive Information Systems for Tobacco Control, The Lancet, 385 (9972) 966-976. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60264-1
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