People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
- March 10, 2015
It is now apparent that progress on tackling non-communicable diseases (NCDs*) has been insufficient and uneven. Countries are only slowly moving from their commitments toward action, including allocating resources.
So when the World Health Organization announced plans to set up a working group on financing for NCDs, expectations soared. After two high-level United Nations meetings on NCDs, it was thought that smaller group discussions could generate some progress.
The tobacco control community believed that the working group could easily build on some tough discussions which took place within the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in recent years – how to mobilise resources, what strategies could succeed in getting tobacco control included in governments’ development agendas, or to strengthen whole-of-government approaches.
Some progress made
The FCTC COP has not found solutions to these challenges yet. But thanks to the FCTC working group on sustainable measures, progress has been made in mapping existing obstacles and exploring ways to overcome them.
In particular, at the last session of the COP (COP6) it was agreed that additional economic arguments need to be developed. The most common arguments for tobacco control are based on the number of deaths, nationally or globally, caused by tobacco use. While powerful, these approaches can unfortunately reinforce the misunderstanding that addressing tobacco use is the responsibility solely of ministries of health. Providing estimates of the economic costs of tobacco use is a more convincing way to get ministries of finance or development on board for tobacco control.
Currently, little information is available in this regard. That is why, at COP6, the FCTC Secretariat, WHO, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank were asked to develop calculations related to the tobacco epidemic.
Cost of each FCTC measure
These bodies were also encouraged to promote existing WHO work, which assessed the costs of several tobacco control interventions, and to expand this work to cover all measures contained in the FCTC. WHO was also requested to make these calculations available to Parties, and to assist them to adapt this information for the country level.
With these commitments in place since COP6 (October 2014), it was surprising to see WHO background documents for the working group on NCD financing highlight the need for costing tools, yet omit any reference to work done within the FCTC. Similarly, while the WHO documents highlight the benefits of tobacco taxation, they don’t refer to FCTC Article 6 (on price and tax measures) and the relevant guidelines for implementation.
In response, FCA submitted comments on the WHO documents, and called on the NCD working group to build on, rather than sideline, the work done under the FCTC. Read our submission here.
* NCDs cause nearly 2/3 of global deaths today, and it is estimated that they will cost the world economy US$30 trillion by 2031. Tobacco use is the one risk factor common to four major NCDs: cancers, cardiovascular and lung disease, and diabetes.