Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

Questions and answers

WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2011


Question: What is the outlook for tobacco control?

Answer: Again, if current trends persist, tobacco use could kill 8 million people each year by 2030. But, actions by governments and society could blunt the tobacco epidemic's advance. We know what policies work to control tobacco. Again, more political will is essential.

That said, it is likely that, over time, WHO's surveillance of the tobacco epidemic will continue to show that more people are being protected from second-hand smoke, helped to quit and adequately warned about the dangers of tobacco use, and that more governments will implement and enforce total bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and require higher taxes at rates that would effectively deter significant numbers of people from using tobacco.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan's belief that "we hold in our hands the solution to the global tobacco epidemic" remains as true today as when she expressed it three years ago. Reversing the entirely preventable epidemic of tobacco must be a top public health priority.

Question: What is the basis of your optimism that a significant dent can be made in the tobacco epidemic?

Answer: We have formidable tools with which to resist. Foremost is the WHO Framework Convention and its guidelines, which provide the foundation for countries to implement and manage tobacco control.

To help the Parties meet their commitments under the treaty, WHO provides them with technical assistance, including the MPOWER package of tobacco control measures.

Not to be underestimated is the great momentum that tobacco control efforts have gained in recent years. In some respects, the fight against tobacco has only just begun. Political will is increasing – not fast enough, but the trend is positive. Although tobacco control efforts remain underfunded, more money is being made available, much of it from private sources such as Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. New partnerships are being formed and old ones reenergized.

Awareness is growing, too, that tobacco use imposes a huge burden on society. Tobacco use is a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of death, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and tuberculosis. It is one of the leading causes of preventable death. It breeds poverty and stifles economic development. Primary wage-earners who die in middle age of a tobacco-related heart attack or brain stroke squander their economic potential and leave their families without means to buy food, clothing, shelter, education and health care. Money spent on tobacco is money not spent on these basic necessities.

All that said, we know that the challenge is huge and that success is not guaranteed. We need to work better and smarter to achieve our long-term goals.

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Last update:

18 October 2013 16:42 CEST