Tobacco kills 8 million people worldwide each year, mainly in low- and middle-income countries where 80% of the world’s smokers live. However, not only smokers are at risk, second-hand smoking causes 1.2 million deaths per year. Tobacco use is a leading cause of multiple cancers such as oral cancers, lung, liver, stomach, bowel and ovarian cancers, as well as some types of leukaemia. Quitting at any age can make an immense difference for the user, increasing life expectancy and improving the quality of life.
In addition, tobacco has a negative impact on economies due to illicit trade, climate change and pollution; and is linked to human rights abuses and child labour.
Tobacco control aims at reducing the use of tobacco and the serious health risks and mortality it causes through policies, laws and education. It has long been a priority of UICC’s advocacy efforts in collaboration with members and partners. Tobacco control is also one of the 16 essential health services monitored by the World Health Organization (WHO) to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
“It is essential for the promotion of better health as part of UHC that people understand the risk of smoking and tobacco use. Governments and policy makers have a clear responsibility to protect them from harm caused by tobacco.”
– Sonali Johnson, Head of Knowledge, Advocacy and Policy, Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)
In order to stop the global tobacco epidemic, an international treaty entered into force in 2005: the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). WHO defines it as “an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health. There are currently 180 parties to the convention. The treaty deals with topics such as demand-side reduction measures, supply-side reduction measures, protection of the environment, protection from tobacco industry interests, implementation of multi-sectoral tobacco control strategies, nicotine addiction and exposure to second-hand smoke, public awareness, illicit trade and measures such as tax increases or ban advertising.
UICC and its members help with the implementation of the FCTC by encouraging governments and policy makers to adopt and effectively implement the WHO FCTC treaty and by raising awareness of the risks related to the use of tobacco.
The tobacco industry continues to promote tobacco use with very strong and powerful marketing campaigns targeted particularly at youth populations. It is therefore very important to counter the dissemination of misinformation and to raise awareness about this complex topic encompassing several health and socio-economic domains. This includes education about e-cigarettes and emerging heated tobacco products.