People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
Death and disease come to mind first when thinking about the harm caused by tobacco. One billion people will die this century due to tobacco use, unless urgent action is taken. But tobacco also imposes enormous economic costs.
The exact global economic cost related to tobacco consumption is unknown, but it is likely over US$1trillion per year, according to The Tobacco Atlas.
Having a better understanding of the economic costs of tobacco and the resources required to implement tobacco control measures is essential. There is a common misperception that reducing tobacco use is solely the responsibility of ministries of health but, in reality, a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach is essential for tobacco control to be successful.
Tools for calculations
An effective strategy to get the attention of all units of a government is to calculate the cost to the economy associated with the tobacco epidemic, and compare this figure with the cost of implementing policies and programmes to address it. Several tools exist to assist governments to develop these calculations. (See FCA's fact sheet).
At the last major international meeting on tobacco control – the sixth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP6) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) – governments recognised the need to step up work on developing economic arguments related to tobacco control. The FCTC Secretariat, WHO, World Bank and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) were asked to join efforts in this regard.
At country level, work needs to progress particularly on developing costed tobacco control plans. In other words, governments need to be clear on what resources are needed to turn FCTC commitments in action.
With these data at hand, demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of tobacco control, making the case for tobacco control as a national priority, and mobilising support from development partners will be much easier.