Smoking is A Global Epidemic

Tobacco control policies are spreading across the globe to stop the smoking epidemic

(RxWiki News) Tobacco-related illness has become a global issue. Nations are getting together and sharing ideas on how to reduce global tobacco consumption and, as a result, save millions of lives.

Harvard University hosted a conference on global tobacco control and the state of tobacco use in the 21st century.

The United Nations, the World Health Organization and other international groups interested in tobacco control from over 40 nations gathered to discuss the future of tobacco in the world.

Tobacco control policies have worked in many countries over the years. And based on those examples, many more countries around the world are beginning to adopt those same policies.

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Gregory Connolly, DMD, MPH, director of the Center for Global Tobacco Control at the Harvard School of Public Health, chaired a global tobacco conference last week at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies.

The conference – called “Governance of Tobacco in the 21st Century: Strengthening National and International Policy for Global Health and Development” – brought together organizations from all over the world to discuss the global tobacco epidemic. 

More than 40 nations met along with Harvard University, the World Health Organization, the Institute of Global Tobacco Control and multiple other national and international groups to talk about concerns over tobacco-related public health issues.

Leaders at the conference estimated that approximately one billion people will die in the 21st century from consuming tobacco products and exposure to secondhand smoke.

“Tobacco use poses a major health and human development threat. Avoidable and unnecessary, tobacco-linked illnesses strike people in their prime, hit the poorest hardest, inhibit country productivity, burden already weak healthcare systems, and consume scarce national resources,” said Dr. Douglas Webb of the United Nations Development Program.

At the conference, many goals were set to prevent future large-scale tobacco-related deaths. These goals included:

  • Make tobacco control part of the United Nations agenda
  • Prompt every nation to develop tobacco control policies that reach into trade, finance and health arenas
  • Bring health to the forefront of all trade agreements that involve tobacco
  • Reduce smoking rates to less than 5 percent across the globe by the year 2048

The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) has been used by several nations to develop tobacco control policies.

Russia's ban on smoking in public places will go into effect in June 2013. Certain restrictions on cigarette sales and advertising and tobacco company-sponsored events will also go into effect.

Australia’s High Court has recently upheld laws that make it illegal to have anything other than plain packaging on tobacco products.

Uruguay has seen a sharp decline in tobacco usage after establishing tobacco control measures that were recommended by the World Health Organization.

The European Union announced intentions to adopt plain packaging and increase taxes on tobacco products and ban smoking in public places.

Multiple parties at the conference expressed concerns about tobacco companies pushing tobacco use in developing countries and to minors.

“The only entity in the world to benefit if tobacco use is passed down to the next generation of poor children of the world will be the tobacco industry,” said Dr. Connolly.

“All other industries producing good products and services will suffer, not benefit, and the same is true for the economies of poor nations and their citizens [if smoking is not eliminated]. This meeting was an historic step to make global smoking history,” Dr. Connolly continued.

The conference was held at Harvard University on February 26 and 27.

Review Date: 
March 6, 2013