In 2021, despite operating under the global COVID-19 pandemic, ASH implemented numerous programs to accomplish its Mission, “to advocate for innovative legal and policy measures to end the global tobacco epidemic.”
ASH’s programs advanced health policy at the local, national, and global levels.
ASH served as an incubator and catalyst for interventions to phase out the sale of commercial tobacco products (what we affectionately call Project Sunset). ASH’s coordinating role to advance a global discussion around the tobacco endgame has helped change the view that a concept like phasing out the commercial sale of tobacco products was impossible to now being perceived as not only a realistic goal, but a necessity to achieve globally agreed human rights and development objectives. ASH has collaborated with several countries, as well as jurisdictions in the U.S., like the State of California, that have articulated a tobacco endgame goal. In 2021, Brookline, Massachusetts implemented the innovative Tobacco-Free Generation measure by mandating that anyone born on or after January 1, 2000 will not be able to be legally sold tobacco or vaping products, a policy that is also being considered in New Zealand, Malaysia and other countries.
ASH also advanced health in 2021 through the rule of law by successfully suing the FDA for their failure to take action on menthol cigarettes, along with our co-plaintiffs at the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, the American Medical Association, and the National Medical Association.
ASH continued to lead in the promotion of global norms to move local communities toward zero tobacco-use. ASH trained health advocates on how to use international human rights treaties and health goals to reduce tobacco, which has resulted in numerous submissions to human rights treaty bodies calling on governments to act on tobacco. ASH participated in the latest round of negotiations of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and, in part thanks to our involvement, topics like tobacco endgame will be addressed in the next round of the tobacco treaty negotiations in 2023.
If we at ASH could share one message this year, it would be:
The tobacco epidemic has not ended.
The tobacco industry was responsible for the deaths of over eight million people in 2021, the most of any year in history. That death toll exceeds the number of lives lost because of COVID-19. That’s a huge number.
We must remember that each victim of tobacco is a family member, a friend, a human being whose life was cut short. And the communities hardest hit are often those that can least afford it.