WHO Report Finds Measurable Progress in the Global Fight Against Tobacco

By Gustavo Torrez

Program Manager, Network for LGBT Health Equity

Yesterday the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report finding measurable progress in the global fight against tobacco.

The WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2011 outlines the major issues tobacco is having globally. Tobacco use continues to be the leading global cause of preventable death, killing nearly 6 million people worldwide. With that comes billions in economic burden across the globe…. Sadly, we are seeing the largest effects of the tobacco industry in low- and middle-income countries, and the disparity is expected to widen further over the next several decades.  The WHO estimates if current trends continue, by 2030 tobacco will kill more than 8 Million people worldwide each year.

The report finds that 19 countries have added large graphic warning labels covering 50% of cigarette packs. Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada has created a website listing all of the countries that have picture based cigarette Health Warning Labels on their pack, listing 43 countries total. The Research shows that these new graphic warning labels will have a huge impact over the long run saving millions of lives. As you may know the US released new cigarette warning labels, which we will seen on packs no later than September 2012.

There have been huge gains with comprehensive smoke-free laws across the globe as well.  Since 2008 the report indicates 16 additional countries have passed national legislation that bans smoking in all public places and workplaces, including bars and restaurants, with the result that over 385 million people have been newly protected from the health harms of tobacco smoke.

So while there are huge gains globally noted in this report, we all know tobacco has and will continue to impact low- and middle-income communities disproportionately. Locally there is a lot of work to be done, but today we can celebrate some successes we have all made globally, united against Big Tobacco.

For those of you who may not be familiar with The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control  (fCTC), it  is a legally binding global treaty that provides the foundation for countries to implement and manage tobacco control programmes to address the growing epidemic of tobacco use. It is the first ever legally binding global public health treaty.  As of May 2011, the WHO fCTC has 173 Parties covering 87% of the world’s population, making it one of the most rapidly embraced treaties in United Nations history.

For more information on the FCTC, including the treaty’s text, updates on country ratifications, and information about implementation guidelines, visit the Framework Convention Alliance and the World Health Organization’s Tobacco Free Initiative

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