CA Vision, Purpose, GoalsEvery 10 seconds, someone dies of a tobacco-related disease. This fact is especially painful because the tobacco epidemic is one of the leading preventable causes of death and disability among adults in the world today. In addition, passive smoking has a major effect upon health, especially of children.

ASH has been fighting tobacco since 1967. Our longevity is not necessarily something to celebrate – “mission accomplished” would mean going out of business, joyfully. Like most tobacco control organizations, ASH’s vision is a world free from tobacco-caused death and disease. But also like most tobacco control organizations, our campaigns sought to mitigate the epidemic, not end it. For ASH, that changed about five years ago.

The catalyst for the change at ASH was the adoption of a human rights-based approach to the tobacco epidemic. Analyzing the commercialization of tobacco products through that lens leads to an obvious conclusion: this stuff must be removed from the market. As the Danish Institute for Human Rights put it:

“Tobacco is deeply harmful to human health, and there can be no doubt that the production and marketing of tobacco is irreconcilable with the human right to health. For the tobacco industry, the United Nations Guiding Principles therefore require the cessation of the production and marketing of tobacco.”

To be honest, many of our colleagues thought we were a little crazy to espouse phasing out the sale of tobacco products. But the idea got a huge boost when the State of California decided to put its weight behind a true tobacco endgame campaign. This represents a paradigm shift in public health. California and its allies are no longer interested in just “controlling” tobacco. They’re in it to end it.

Many experts now endorse endgame, and there are serious endgame movements materializing worldwide. But as it has been for other progressive issues, including the Smokefree Air movement, California is the tip of the spear. It’s an exciting time to work in public health in California, and ASH is proud to be a small part of the effort to once again show the world how it’s done.


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