Stamp It Out – Cigarettes Now, NCDs to Follow
May 11, 2011
In March 2011, the CSIS Global Health Policy Center asked bloggers around the world: What should the key priority of the upcoming UN High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases be and why? We had a number of great submissions. Johanna Ralston was one of our four finalists. Read her entry below and look out in the days and weeks ahead another blog contest on NCDs.
CEO, World Heart Federation. http://www.world-heart-federation.org/
On a dusty road in Tanzania, a 50 year old teacher rolls a cigarette as he walks to work. In England, a group of young women spark-up outside a bar. In a mountain commune in Vietnam, an 80 year old man chews tobacco as he sits outside his home... you get the picture. All around the world people of all ages, in rural and urban environments, continue to ‘enjoy’ tobacco; in fact, 1.3 billion people currently use tobacco worldwide. However, tobacco is one of the biggest risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancers, and more than 14,500 people are killed from its use every day – certainly not enjoyable.
In recent years the dangers of tobacco have become widely recognised and scientific evidence has unquestionably deduced the relationship between tobacco use and NCDs. In addition to the disease burden, the costs of treating smoking-related NCDs creates a poverty trap, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs): the poorest people are more likely to smoke and often spend more on tobacco than they would on education, health and clothing combined.
The ever increasing knowledge-base linking tobacco use to disease burden and negative health-economics has encouraged a public health response to the tobacco epidemic, leading to such initiatives as the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which as it stands is the most significant and influential effort to strengthen tobacco control worldwide. The FCTC is recognized as a substantial achievement because it:
- Catalyzed global action and continues to establish strong momentum for progression towards global tobacco control
- Elevates the importance of tobacco control as a global health and political priority
- Stimulates policy change at the global and national level
The FCTC has in fact been labelled as “a global galvanizing force for the past decade, serving, as its name implies, as a framework and road map for global tobacco control efforts” and is ratified by more than 160 parties, covering 86 per cent of the world’s population. Despite this, in 2008 only 5.4 per cent of the world’s population was covered by comprehensive smoke-free laws.
So although the world leaders have much to discuss at the UN High-Level Meeting later this year, we at the World Heart Federation urge actions towards a tobacco-free world to be prioritised, and in particular will be calling for ratification and full implementation of the FCTC, by all governments worldwide.
At the World Heart Federation’s latest World Congress of Cardiology, new data presented revealed that government-enacted tobacco control policies significantly increase the number of young people seeking advice to quit smoking. So action taken by the world’s leaders does work and they should be congratulated on efforts to date. However, we look forward to September’s meeting, and hope that new action points are shaped to push towards the ultimate goal of a tobacco free-world.