The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

The WHO FCTC at 10: more political will needed

Matthew L MyersMatthew L. Myers, President
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

A decade after the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) came into force there is no doubt that the treaty has served as a catalyst for life-saving progress around the world. In 2006, the WHO projected that unless nations act decisively, tobacco will kill one billion people worldwide this century. Today, thanks in large part to the FCTC, actions taken since then have already begun to bend that arc. For the first time in decades, the total number of cigarettes sold worldwide actually declined in 2013.

Nonetheless, there is an urgent need for more nations to take action and adopt more of the policies called for by the treaty. Tobacco use remains a major driving force behind the worldwide growth in non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and chronic lung disease, which have overtaken infectious diseases as the world’s leading killers.

Nations must do more

Tobacco’s devastating global toll is unacceptable and entirely preventable because we have proven strategies to reduce tobacco use and save lives, strategies that nations must implement as required by the FCTC. It is time for nations to do more to make full use of this powerful tool.

While much has changed in tobacco control over the last 10 years, one thing remains the same: The biggest obstacle to global progress in reducing the death and disease caused by tobacco use is the tobacco industry. Around the world, the tobacco industry wields tremendous political influence and marketing savvy to fight tobacco control policies and addict new customers. The industry is targeting low- and middle-income countries where 80 percent of the world’s smokers now live and tobacco giants spend billions of dollars marketing their deadly products in these countries.

Tobacco taxes critical

Despite overwhelming evidence of the horrible toll of tobacco and a clearly identified villain in the tobacco industry, political will to address the tobacco epidemic and implement the proven policies called for by the FCTC remains low in too many places. It is especially critical that nations step up efforts to increase tobacco taxes, which is the most effective strategy for reducing tobacco use.

It’s time for governments to build on 10 years of progress and mark this anniversary by rededicating themselves to enacting the proven, cost-effective solutions called for by the FCTC. With a billion lives at stake, countries must be as aggressive in fighting the tobacco epidemic as the tobacco industry is in perpetuating it.

* This is one of a series of articles written by health experts to mark the 10th anniversary of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which is 27 Feb. 2015.The views in this article are those of the author alone and not necessarily endorsed by FCA.

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