People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
FCA Regional Coordinator for the Americas, Eduardo Bianco, was one of the civil society leaders invited to a roundtable with Uruguay's President Tabare Vazquez, US President Barack Obama and Costa Rica's President Luis Guillermo Solis in Panama City on 10 April 2015.
The roundtable preceded the Summit of the Americas.
The text of Eduardo’s statement follows:
First of all, I want to congratulate you, President Obama, and also Presidents Solis and President Vazquez, for giving civil society organizations from the Americas the opportunity of this direct dialogue with you.
We believe this is appropriate. Governments change every 4 or 5 years, but civil society organizations are those who keep pushing the issues that have been mentioned at this roundtable, and try to hold governments accountable to their commitments.
Right to health
No doubt all the topics raised by my partners are very important. But I want to address an issue that is related to two fundamental human rights: the right to life and the right to health.
Specifically, I want to speak about non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which are the leading cause of death and disability globally as well as in our region. Moreover, these diseases also cause poverty, perpetuate inequality between the developed and developing world, and affect sustainable development.
If we do not act effectively the current situation will worsen, with unacceptable human and economic costs.
We have an historic opportunity.
After the 2011 UN Summit on NCDs (which issued the Political Declaration on NCDs), countries agreed a Global NCD Action Plan, with an overall goal of reducing premature mortality from NCDs by 25 percent by 2025. The plan includes specific objectives for each of the major risk factors: tobacco, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.
I also want to emphasise the importance of tobacco control for controlling NCDs.
A paper recently published in The Lancet noted that it is possible to reach the goal of reducing NCD mortality by 25 percent by 2025 only if tobacco control interventions are strengthened. The proposed target of a 30 percent reduction in tobacco use prevalence is insufficient to achieve the goal: a 50 percent cut in global consumption would be needed.
But we have a problem. The tobacco industry interferes with the sovereign right of countries to protect the lives and health of its citizens, and is currently using trade and investment treaties to block the actions of governments.
Mr. Presidents, on behalf of my organisations from Uruguay, and also on behalf of regional and international organisations related to NCD and tobacco control that I am representing at this moment, I ask you to:
- Strongly support the inclusion of NCDs, including accelerated implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, in the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, and also in national development plans of countries from the region;
- Push forward, on a regional level, for inter-sectoral and multi-sectoral work at government level to address these complex health problems, which cannot be confronted only by Ministers of Health;
- Use tobacco and alcohol taxes to fund NCDs and tobacco control, as well as some of the other social needs raised by colleagues during this meeting.
And finally, I strongly encourage you to prioritise human life above any other interest.
Thank you very much.