Over-burdened health systems in all countries are already caring for countless people who have been disabled by cancer, stroke, emphysema and the myriad other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) caused by tobacco.
Tobacco-related illnesses and premature mortality impose high productivity costs on economies because of sick workers and those who die prematurely during their working years. Lost economic opportunities in highly-populated developing countries will be particularly severe as tobacco use is high and growing in those areas.
The vector of the tobacco epidemic is a wealthy, powerful, transnational industry.
From 1970 to 2000, cigarette consumption tripled in developing countries due to aggressive acquisition and marketing strategies. Tobacco industry revenue dwarfs the GDP of many countries. Manufacturers’ worldwide profits were about US$50 billion in 2012. The industry uses its wealth to battle for market share in the developing world.
We know exactly how to tackle the scourge of tobacco.
We have an internationally negotiated, legally binding package of evidence-based tobacco control measures, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the first modern-day public health treaty. Parties to the FCTC include 179 countries and the European Union. Unfortunately, the slow pace of FCTC implementation costs countless lives and imposes economic hardship on governments facing rising health care costs and lost opportunities to invest in sustainable development.
Reducing tobacco use is critical to achieving each of the 17 sustainable development goals. A few illustrations that show the intersection with the SDGs include:
Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Tobacco use is highest among the poor. Money spent on tobacco is unavailable to be spent on basic necessities such as food, education and health care. For those families living on very low incomes, even a small diversion of resources to buy tobacco can have a significant impact on health and nutrition.
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Tobacco use is a leading driver of the NCD epidemic and the number one cause of preventable disease and death worldwide, killing over 6 million people each year.
Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Global cigarette production is dominated by a few transnational countries, with profits largely flowing to a few Northern countries. The tobacco business worsens lower middle income countries balance of trade, destroys human capital and diverts resources into a product that significantly drains government and household finances.
Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Cigarette filters are made from cellulose acetate, a type of plastic that can take up to 12 years to decompose. The 2013 International Coastal Clean-up in 92 countries found that cigarette butts constituted 15 percent of the total pieces of debris collected, the most common single item.
Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
The tobacco industry abuses domestic and international legal systems in order to prevent or delay tobacco control measures, often launching cases without legal merit in order to apply “regulatory chill” to governments and maintain its markets.
For more information, see http://www.fctc.org/fca-news/opinion-pieces/1504-resources-for-world-no-tobacco-day-2017 and http://www.who.int/campaigns/no-tobacco-day/2017/event/en/ [/restrict]