UN officially acknowledges tobacco makes the world poorer

Posted on 30 Sep 2015 by Tim Brown
Examples of tobacco plain packaging implemented in Australia - image courtesy of the Cancer Council Victoria
Examples of tobacco plain packaging implemented in Australia - image courtesy of the Cancer Council Victoria.

The United Nations General Assembly last week formally adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a 17-point plan to eradicate global poverty, which also formally recognised the negative impact of tobacco consumption on health, wealth, and development around the world.

The the SDGs, the UN pledged to combat continued mainstream use of tobacco, particularly through the implementation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

The FCTC is the first global health treaty; its objective “is to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.”

“It is our hope that the SDGs will raise the profile of the FCTC and provide desperately needed resources for poor countries to fully implement it,” said Laurent Huber, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), a DC-based health organization.

The SDGs are a 15-year plan to reduce poverty across the globe. They follow on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted in 2000 and which are replaced at the end of 2015. But the SDGs are not simply a continuation of the MDGs.

Key differences relating to tobacco include:

  • The new recognition of the growing impact of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) on health and poverty, especially in low and middle income countries. Tobacco is the leading risk factor for NCDs.
  • The SDGs apply to all UN members, including high income countries like the US. While Americans enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world, there are still pockets of poverty among several socio-economic groups. This disparity is especially true for tobacco use, which is increasingly becoming a disease of the poor in the US.

“We have made important progress in combatting tobacco in the 50+ years since the 1964 US Surgeon General’s report made the first official connection between tobacco and disease clear,” said Dr Alfred Munzer, chair of ASH. “However, tobacco still costs over half a million lives and over three hundred billion dollars a year, just in America. The global toll of 6 million lives is staggering. This is unacceptable.”

The World Health Organization estimates that, unless urgent action is taken, tobacco will cost one billion lives this century.

The SDGs serve as a roadmap for global development, including international assistance. The SDGs will come into force on January 1, 2016. The individual targets to track its implementation and success are still in draft form but will be revealed publicly once approved.

To view the full list of SDGs, including those which directly relate to the manufacturing industry, click here.