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Action Review: Third Quarter Edition 2013

Importance of NCDs and Tobacco Control in the Sustainable Development Agenda

Tobacco use is a major cause of preventable death globally and the one risk factor common to the 4 main groups of non-communicable diseases (NCDs)–cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes. Yet until very recently, controlling the tobacco-related epidemic, implementation of the tobacco treaty (the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control), and decreasing NCDs were not high on the international development agenda. In fact, tobacco control is still relatively unknown within the global development community.

After Rio +20, the sustainable development agenda has been the center of all discussions at the UN regarding the post-2015 development agenda. The 3 main pillars include social, economic, and environment. Tobacco control needs to be recognized as not just a health issue but as a broader development issue. ASH spent the past few months engaging around New York City and at the UN to ensure that tobacco control is included in the post-2015 agenda.

The post-2015 development agenda aims to eradicate poverty and promote sustainable development around the world. Tobacco use kills and impacts more people in low-income countries than rich countries; therefore it impedes progress toward reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development. The world must take action to ensure that tobacco use is no longer an impediment to global development.

For more information, check out our new leaflet on tobacco and sustainable development: Tobacco: A Barrier to Sustainable Development. Also check out our global development page, our work in global development, and our resources page.

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United Nations General Assembly 68

There are less than 850 days remaining until the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire. In the last week of September at the UN General Assembly, member states gathered together to discuss progress on the MDGs to date and looked forward to the post-2015 development agenda plans. They renewed their commitment to achieving the MDGs by the deadline and also signed on to host a high-level summit in September of 2015.

This summit will serve as the venue for the adoption of the new post-2015 development agenda, which will build upon the current MDGs, incorporate the unfinished goals, and include new challenges that have come up since 2000. Given that tobacco is a barrier to development, we will be working hard to ensure that the tobacco epidemic and Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) are adequately addressed.

The post-2015 development agenda will blend the important issues of poverty eradication and sustainable development into a single framework and set of goals. These goals will be universal and applicable to all countries while also accounting for varying national situations and priorities.

We would like to express our appreciation to Palau for their statement during the UN general debate. The President supported our efforts by being the only nation to specifically point out that tobacco control was excluded from the MDGs and to note the direct impact tobacco has on NCDs. He emphasized that we must target tobacco separately. We’d also like to recognize Russia and New Zealand for mentioning the importance of addressing NCDs in their UN statements.

Given this year’s public statements, the reality is that we have a lot of work to do in the global health community. Health was not mentioned nearly as much as it should have been considering its incredible impact on every area of sustainable development and poverty. In order to get NCDs and tobacco control on the radar of decision makers, we need to work together with other health groups to promote overall health goals.

For more information on the conclusions of the special event on MDGs check out the outcome document. Take a look at our leaflet on tobacco and sustainable development, and check out our video series “Real Talk Tobacco” for updates from UNGA 68.

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 Unlikely victory in sight on Trans-Pacific Partnership

When ASH formed a coalition almost three years ago to seek special treatment for tobacco in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement, many experts told us we were crazy. Free trade is music to the ears of powerful multinational corporations, and both Democrats and Republicans are often eager to push free trade as a way of demonstrating their support for potential high-donors. We pushed ahead anyway for two reasons. First, it is clear that trade law is one of the biggest threats to continued success in combating the global tobacco epidemic. And second, Goliath would never have been defeated if David had agreed that it was pointless to pick up that rock.

Between 2011 and this past summer, we were successful in getting the tobacco issue discussed in a way that it had never been before. In 2012, the U.S. had even revealed a draft proposal that, while insufficient, would at least have been a step in the right direction. On August 14, we received terrible, then wonderful news. The bad news was that the tobacco industry persuaded the Obama administration to back away from even its weak position. In a closed-door session, U.S. officials explained to a small group of public health advocates that due to pressure from pro-tobacco members of congress and industry groups, different and far weaker language would be proposed. ASH worked hard to publicly scold the White House, and was rewarded with articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Financial Times and many others.

But on the afternoon of August 14, just 90 minutes after the bad news, terrific news came in from across the Pacific. Malaysia, one of the other 11 TPP negotiating countries, had decided to formally propose a full exemption – or carve-out for tobacco, using the language that ASH and its allies at Georgetown University Law Center had been advocating. Both the American and Malaysian language were proposed at the August negotiating round in Brunei.

Closed-door negotiations in September failed to reach a deal on tobacco, and Malaysia has stuck hard to its position. Several other TPP countries have voiced their support for the carve-out, and none have come forward to support the U.S. position. If the carve-out is accepted, it will be the first time of its kind in any major trade agreement, and it will lead to profound tobacco control benefits for future agreements, especially the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

We are not there yet, but we are closer to victory than anyone thought possible. The thanks goes to you. Without your support, none of this would be possible. You are helping change the world.

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 Send a letter to US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power

Getting ASH’s messages across to the US Government is as important as advocating at UN headquarters. Here’s what you can do:

  •  Send letters to Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN, encouraging her to make efforts to get tobacco control included in the post-2015 development agenda and the US global health agenda. A template letter is provided here.

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3rd Quarter: Tobacco Control in the news

  • WTO Decision Forces U.S. Hand in Menthol Cigarettes

In July the US laid out its plan to come into compliance with a WTO dispute settlement panel finding that the U.S. ban on clove cigarettes violated the trading rights of Indonesia.  The ban on clove and other flavorings for cigarettes was part of a landmark 2009 Family Smoking and Prevention and Tobacco Control Act which also gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products for the first time.  But, menthol flavoring was exempted from the ban, in order to give FDA time to consider how best to ban a product used by about 30% addicted U.S. smokers. Read ASH’s full press release on the issue here>

  • Obama Goes to Bat for Big Tobacco in the TPP

The Obama administration backed down from a proposal revealed 17 months ago to protect health from Big Tobacco under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the pending free trade agreement with 11 other countries.  Read ASH’s full press release on the issue here>

  • E-cigarette use: The CDC Report

E-cigarettes have been surging in popularity and a new CDC study suggests this effect is trickling down to U.S. teens.  New findings from a national survey on youth tobacco use showed that the percentage of middle and high school student using electronic cigarettes doubled from 2011 to 2012.  Read the full article on the issue here>

  • Success of the CDC’s graphic tobacco ad campaign

A graphic anti-tobacco campaign starring former smokers has helped nearly 100,000 Americans kick the habit permanently according to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  ASH Director Laurent Huber was recently interviewed by Fox 5 News on the topic explaining that there is still much work left to do to combat the global tobacco epidemic.  Watch the video here>

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New Video Series: Real Talk Tobacco

This fall, ASH launched our brand new video series called Real Talk Tobacco (RTT) where we decode everything happening in the tobacco control public health community.  The complex layers of trade, global development, U.S. health policy, human rights, and the tobacco industry are broken down in each video episode to show how these issues relate to you.

This informative series will also provide you with real time updates on the events that we attend, like the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, allowing everyone to join us on the road at these turning points for the tobacco control community. We want RTT to be your foot in the door and your translator in the room, providing you with updates on how everything relates back to the life-saving work of the tobacco control movement.

Every episode gives you a suggestion for how to stay involved, so you will not just be a member of the audience, but you will be an active participant standing up for health and tobacco control measures!

Please send us any topic suggestions that you would like our ASH Correspondent and Campaign Coordinator Shana Narula to cover in an upcoming episode by emailing HQ@ash.org.

Check out our favorite RTT video here. And, stay tuned to our YouTube Channel here for the latest updates!

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Please help us in welcoming our new Campaign Coordinator, Shana Narula!

Shana has been a long time tobacco control advocate and enthusiast. She has worked at various public health nonprofits that have been instrumental in the tobacco control movement. Her experience includes global health, advocacy, tobacco control policy, tobacco control research, health communications, health promotion, and health education.

Born and raised in Orwigsburg, PA, she completed her BS in public health at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. During her undergraduate studies, she worked at the Pan American Health Organization. She also spent a semester in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil for a public health study abroad program where she created and filmed a documentary on sexual education in Salvador. Going on to earn her MPH in Behavioral Science and Health Education, Shana studied at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and worked with the American Cancer Society. She was able to conduct her master’s thesis research on South African College Students’ Attitudes toward Smoke free Policies, while living in Cape Town, South Africa. Shana then spent a summer attended attending Duke University’s Global Health Fellows Program in Geneva, Switzerland, where she worked with the World Heart Federation and the Global Smoke- free Partnership.

Passionate about public health and tobacco control from a young age, Shana has established a strong academic and practical background to match her passion. She is very determined to make an impact in the field of tobacco control.

In her spare time, Shana loves to eat, cook, travel, sing, and dance. Shana is also a member of an all female competitive North Indian folk dance team, Shaan Mutiyaaran Di, based in New York City.

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Tobacco: A Global Development Issue

If someone were to ask you what the following goals have in common, what would you say?

Most people would not even think to mention tobacco, but if they did, they would be absolutely right! Tobacco impedes all of these goals.

Tobacco is a major cause of preventable death globally, and it is the leading risk factor for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease (categorically known as non-communicable diseases).

In addition, tobacco use is highest among the poor. Globally, 84% of smokers live in underdeveloped countries.  In the developing world, tobacco addiction causes families to spend precious income on tobacco products that satisfy their nicotine cravings instead of meeting their basic human needs for food, water, and shelter.  When tobacco-related illnesses and premature deaths are added into the mix, tobacco use not only imposes great health costs, it deprives nations of valuable workforces that help build strong economies.

So what is ASH doing about this? Visit the ASH page on Global Development to learn more>

And please help support ASH today 

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