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Statement from ASH Executive Director Laurent Huber

Making Priorities into our RealityLH headshot - COP6

This year has been one filled with milestones for the public health and tobacco control communities.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), call on governments to strengthen the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Reducing tobacco deaths is now recognized on paper as a global priority; let’s make it a reality on the ground.

And as a first in trade history, tobacco is singled out as a unique product in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and countries in the Pacific Rim have the option to carve out the Investor State Dispute Mechanism (ISDS) for tobacco products.

These are major accomplishments, and it is clear that governments around the world are taking a stand. They want to take action and prevent the preventable in the 21st century: a billion unnecessary, premature deaths and the loss of trillions of dollars to the global economy caused by tobacco use. 

However, it is not enough to recognize that tobacco is a major problem in UN settings and in international trade negotiations.  To make a world free from the harms caused by tobacco a reality, governments need to take action on the ground and fully commit to implementing the measures that will help prevent the scourge of tobacco.

The tobacco industry continues to be a very profitable industry. The global number of deaths attributable to tobacco use is still rising, and unfortunately, smoking prevalence is increasing among the most vulnerable populations, the poor and the disenfranchised.

But now that the world has recognized on paper that addressing the tobacco-related epidemic is a priority, it is up to all of us to hold our governments accountable to what they have agreed.  We need to encourage governments to make the right choice: prioritizing health over tobacco industry profits.

In 2016 we will need to take action, here in the U.S. and abroad, with our friends all over the world, to make sure that reducing tobacco deaths is a national priority.  The world is facing numerous challenges, some that are very difficult to overcome, but this is one development challenge that the world can achieve.

Tell your local government, as well as your national government, to allocate resources to implement the life saving measures we know can work to reduce tobacco use: increase taxes on tobacco products, ban all forms of advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products, protect everyone from exposure to tobacco smoke, place large pictorial health warnings on tobacco packages and consider standardized packaging. Governments can even consider further actions, such as reducing the content of nicotine to make the product less addictive and seriously restricting the sale and trading of tobacco products.

When it comes to one of the principal causes of death in the world – tobacco use – we know what to do.

We don’t have to invent a cure; we just have to implement it.

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