People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
- March 3, 2015
By E Ulysses Dorotheo, FCTC Program Director, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance and Chair, FCA Board of Directors
It's true that the FCTC has accelerated progress in tobacco control in many countries, but in low- and middle-income countries, the tobacco industry continues to flourish and make obscene profits at the expense of public health, even as tobacco company executives and lawyers continue to spread misinformation about tobacco production, tobacco use, and tobacco control.
A large focus of our advocacy therefore must be to enlighten misguided policy makers, government officials, and media practitioners, who continue to defend industry positions, so that regulations can be as strong and effective as possible and to ensure that adequate human and financial resources are allocated to FCTC implementation at both national and global levels.
Tobacco control key to taming NCDs
At the national level, tobacco control needs to be prioritised if countries are to tame the burden of non-communicable disease; without tobacco control, it will be an impossible task. This requires a whole-of-government approach: ministries of finance, education, agriculture, labor, and trade must be involved, not just ministries of health.
In addition, local governments also have a large role to play in implementing and enforcing smoke-free policies and educating their constituencies. Expectedly, the tobacco industry will continue to interfere, aiming to defer, dilute, and delay effective regulation. It is necessary therefore to continue raising public awareness of such tactics and working to denormalize the tobacco industry.
Death Clock ticking too fast
At the global level, the Conference of Parties needs to take a serious look to determine how best to accelerate FCTC implementation, so that the tobacco death clock can begin to slow down.
Within the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, NCDs are shaping to be a priority, so this is good news, as long as global leaders remind themselves that tobacco is a major risk factor for the four major NCDs and that tobacco control should be a priority within the NCD priority. Additionally, tobacco’s social, economic, and environmental harms should also be covered under the other SDGs.
Ten years of the FCTC is a good number to celebrate, but let’s hope it doesn’t take another ten to see even faster progress.
* This is one of a series of articles written by health experts to mark the 10 anniversary of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which was 27 Feb. 2015.