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Tobacco Costs the World More than GDP of All Low Income Countries

“Tobacco use alone costs the world 1-2% of its GDP each year,” Helen Clark, administrator of the United Nations Development Program told the United Nations on July 11th. July.helen

The world’s GDP in 2013 was nearly $75 trillion. One percent of the world’s GDP makes the global cost of tobacco higher than the total GDP of all low income countries, which is about $575 billion. Member states echoed the concern for the negative impacts of tobacco by renewing their commitment to accelerate implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (see the UN’s NCD Review Outcome Document from July 9 -11, 2014).

Administrator Clark’s comment came during the UN’s review and assessment of the current state of prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Many UN member states in attendance emphasized the importance of the FCTC, tobacco control, and tobacco taxation in their statements.* In addition, they called for resources for the prevention and control of NCDs globally and at country level.

We were pleased to see that the final document included a key commitment for countries to set up national NCD targets, including the reduction of tobacco prevalence by 30%. These targets should be put in place at the national level by 2015. As stated in ASH’s Avoidable Death Report, tobacco taxes are an effective and proven way to significantly reduce tobacco use and can help reach such targets.

Now, civil society must hold governments accountable to their commitments regarding the allocation of resources for national policies and action plans on NCDs. Although there were a significant number of government ministers in attendance at this UN Review, the majority were health ministers.

We must get all ministers and high level officials to prioritize tobacco control, NCDs, and the FCTC in national development plans. These issues are not just health issues – they are development issues, as highlighted in ASH’s Brief on tobacco and sustainable development.

At this time, the tobacco control community must come together in full force to ensure that the next set of development goals, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – include tobacco control. The negotiations will be ongoing in the coming months.

We encourage the tobacco control community to spread this message of prioritizing tobacco control to governments and UN missions in New York.

Please contact us if you need any assistance or would like any more information.


* Including Costa Rica, USA, Mexico, Jamaica, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, CARICOM, Colombia, Australia and Spain.

**GDP Source: https://databank.worldbank.org/data/download/GDP.pdf