By Robin Wulffson, M.D.
It is common knowledge that tobacco use is detrimental to ones health. Now, an international group of researchers has made the bold recommendation to phase out the sale of tobacco products by 2040. The report was published in the March 14 edition of the journal The Lancet.
The study authors note that increased action, including new ideas and new investments, is needed to prevent the tobacco-caused deaths. If steps are not taken, a billion people are predicted to die this century from smoking and other forms of tobacco use. More than 80% of those deaths will be in poor and middle-income nations. In recognition of the tremendous preventable burden of death and disease caused by tobacco, the report is the first of a series focused on motivating action towards the world-wide phasing out of the sale of tobacco products and calls for a tobacco-free world, a very low global prevalence of tobacco use of less than 5% by 2040 as an achievable end date.
The authors note that the time has come to act on the unacceptability of the damage caused by the tobacco industry and work towards a world virtually free from the sale of tobacco products. The goal of a tobacco-free world by 2040, where less than 5% of adults use tobacco, is socially desirable, technically feasible, and could become politically practical. They stress that current tobacco control efforts are inadequate to achieve this goal. The cite the following priorities in order of urgency: (1) the inclusion of an ambitious tobacco reduction target in the post-2015 sustainable development health goal; (2) accelerated implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in all nations, with full engagement from all sectors, and with increased national and global investment; (3) an amendment of the FCTC to include an ambitious global tobacco reduction goal; and (4) a UN high-level meeting on tobacco use to galvanize global and national action towards the tobacco-free world by 2040 goal.
During the past three decades, some progress has made been in reduction of the global prevalence of daily smoking in adults. From 1980 through 2012, the overall prevalence has fallen from 41% to 31% in men and from 11% to 6% in women. Despite the decrease in prevalence, the actual number of smokers has increased steadily from 720 million in 1980 to almost 1 billion in 2012, primarily due to population growth. The daily smoking rates among adults in 2012 were much higher in men than in women; however, evidence from many nations reveals that a higher proportion of girls are smoking, compared to their mothers’ generation, primarily due to the aggressive marketing tactics of the tobacco industry. Moreover, cigarettes are now more deadly than they were 50 years ago, largely due to manipulation of their contents by the industry.9
The FCTC has been ratified by 180 nations; thus, it represents a major advance in supporting global and national tobacco control efforts and providing a roadmap for action; national progress reports are now available. The main emphasis of the FCTC is on demand reduction. The FCTC places less emphasis on the reduction of the supply of tobacco products, trade issues, or the ultimate goal of phasing out the sale of tobacco products to achieve a very low global prevalence of tobacco use.
The authors are affiliated with: University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand; Vitality Institute (part of Discovery Holdings), New York, USA; World Lung Foundation, Hong Kong, China; and Public Health Foundation of India, Gurgaon, Haryana, India.
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