A Half Century of Avoidable Death



Contact: Megan Arendt

Office: 202-659-4310

Email: arendtm@ash.org


New Report Offers a Global Perspective on Tobacco in America

WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 3, 2014 – A new report entitled A Half Century of Avoidable Death: A Global Perspective on Tobacco in America,” (“Avoidable Death”) released today by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), examines U.S. tobacco control efforts in the fifty years since the release of the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health – viewed through a global lense.

Tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death and while significant progress has been made, international examples help to illustrate steps that could be taken by the United States. The report comes on the heels of World No Tobacco Day – a day that is intended to draw global attention to the harms associated with tobacco and to advocate for stronger tobacco control policies.

“Many Americans might think that the ‘tobacco wars’ have been won, but in fact the problem is getting worse globally,” commented Laurent Huber, ASH Executive Director. “We need to increase our efforts in the hopes that in another 50 years, tobacco will be relegated to the history books.”

In 2003, the first global health treaty – the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) – was completed to address the growing global tobacco epidemic and to date, 177 countries have joined the treaty. “Avoidable Death” considers U.S. activities with regard to six articles from the FCTC, all dealing with a different aspect of tobacco control. The treaty calls for measures, adopted outside the U.S., such as graphic warning labels, total bans on advertising, and limiting tobacco industry influence over health regulations. During the past fifty years, the rest of the world has not been idle as it relates to the issue of tobacco.

The report compares U.S. cigarette prices and taxes with those abroad, examines smoke-free air laws in Ireland, discusses plain packaging in Australia, considers point of sale bans in Norway, highlights successful public education campaigns from around the world, and spotlights the recent tobacco “corporate social responsibility” ban in Mauritius.

“Avoidable Death” uses international examples to illustrate successes in tobacco control around the world and aims to inspire positive changes in the United States. The report helps to highlight the goals of the FCTC in the fight against the tobacco industry and how international victories can be applied as case studies within American borders.

Examples of countries taking tough action to fight tobacco include:

  • Australia, which requires that tobacco products be sold in plain packaging, without colorful branding;
  • Mauritius, which has banned all tobacco advertising, including so-called “corporate social responsibility” schemes;
  • Uruguay, which allows only one variant of each brand, to stop the tobacco industry from using colors to represent misleading claims like “light” and “low”;
  • Norway, which requires that tobacco be hidden behind the counter in stores;
  • And, many countries that now require large, pictographic warnings on tobacco packaging.


According to Dave Dobbins, COO at Legacy, “Despite our successes, an astonishing 480,000 Americans lose their lives annually to tobacco. We don’t have another 50 years to wait. In 2064, tobacco should be a topic of history.” Legacy provided support for the development of the report.

Read the full report here >




Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is the nation’s oldest anti-tobacco organization dedicated to health for all. ASH was formed in 1967 in response to the U.S. Surgeon General Report in order to use legal action to fight tobacco and protect nonsmokers. Today, because tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, ASH uses global tools to counter the global tobacco epidemic. Learn more about our programs at www.ash.org.

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