As Susan Sontag once wrote, “Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place” (source).
I am certain that as you read these words you can recall a time when you, or someone you love has been ill and unwell, and you can certainly remember the impact this has had on you or your loved ones.
So, it is not surprising that the world has recognized through international law that “Health is a fundamental human right indispensable for the exercise of other human rights. Every human being is entitled to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health conducive to living a life in dignity” (source).
The year 2021 has proven to be challenge to this right, with a pandemic that has swept across nations, disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable among us. But unfortunately, in addition to the COVID pandemic, the world has had to simultaneously deal with the ongoing pandemic caused by the tobacco industry which produces, markets and sells products that are addictive and that make its users ill and often kills them when used as intended, resulting in over 8 million deaths per year.
This has to stop.
Products like cigarettes are not legitimate products for mass consumption, and they should not be on the market alongside of appropriate consumer goods. As Executive Director of ASH, I am extremely proud of what the ASH team and its colleagues in the U.S. and around the world have achieved in 2021 to protect the fundamental right to health to which you and your loved ones are entitled.
We have continued to work at the local, state, regional, international, and global levels across the following 4 key areas:
(1) Phasing out the commercial sale of combustible tobacco products (aka Project Sunset),
(2) Using the law to hold the tobacco industry accountable and force governments to do more to protect your right to health,
(3) Using a human rights approach to advance tobacco control, and
(4) Promoting and strengthening global evidence based best practices to reduce tobacco use.
And thanks to our work with partners, we have seen great progress in 2021, to list just a few examples:
- On January 1st, 2021, Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach, CA implemented their tobacco sales bans.
- The town of Brookline in the State of Massachusetts in the United States implemented the first Tobacco-Free Generation (TFG) regulation, phasing out the sale of tobacco products by disallowing sales to anyone born after January 1, 2000.
- The country of New Zealand has developed a plan that includes a Tobacco-Free Generation policy, retail density reduction, and nicotine reduction policy in December 2021. Read news on the announcement here>
- The County of Sonoma, City of Pasadena, in California passed strong Tobacco Retail Ordinances making tobacco less available.
- Our joint lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) saw success as the FDA agreed to begin a rulemaking process to remove mentholated tobacco products from shelves.
- The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child published a list of recommendations for Germany to address tobacco to protect the right to health of children.
- The city of Washington, DC in the United States passed the Flavored Tobacco Product Prohibition Amendment Act of 2021 (B24-0020) with the aim of removing flavored tobacco products including menthol from the market.
These are just a fraction of the ways we’ve strengthened your right to health this year, and you can find out more about some of our 2021 achievements here.
But there is still much to be done as we have a formidable opponent: the powerful and well-funded tobacco industry that is doing all it can to continue to addict new consumers with its products while simultaneously challenging the life-saving measures governments are trying to put in place to protect your health.
As a result, the tobacco-related pandemic remains a major obstacle to your right to health as well as the health of your loved ones. But together, we can stop the totally preventable tobacco pandemic and create a world where no one has to be ill or die because of tobacco and corporate greed.
So, join us in our global campaign to protect your right to health. And please consider making a tax-deductible donation to ASH today, to be matched if we receive it by December 31, 2021.