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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2555

World No Tobacco Day - 31 May 2017

By Manjari Peiris

Nearly one billion people in the world smoke everyday and about 80 percent of them are in low and middle income countries. Over six million people die from tobacco use every year and the majority of them are in their most productive years (30-69 years of age). Therefore tobacco is extraordinarily dangerous to human health and highly damaging to national economies.

The diseases caused by tobacco use impose high productivity costs to the economy because of sick workers and those who die prematurely during their productive years.

The vector of the tobacco epidemic is a wealthy, powerful, transnational industry which uses its wealth to battle for market share in the developing world.

No country can afford the health, social, economic or environmental consequences of tobacco anymore, hence the world should come together and develop a sustainable development plan.

Tobacco use is highest among the poor and money spent on tobacco is not available to be spent on basic necessities such as food, education and healthcare. Therefore countries must get together to end poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Tobacco growing occupies about 3.8 million hectares of agricultural land and often in countries where under nourishment and child labour are major problems. Therefore, to end hunger, should promote sustainable agriculture to achieve food security and improved nutrition.

The theme for the World No Tobacco Day this year is – "Tobacco is a threat to development." Yes, it is indeed, how?

Tobacco use is a leading driver of the non-communicable disease epidemic and the number one cause of preventable disease and death worldwide, killing over 6 million people each year. Exposure to secondhand smoke is responsible for at least 600,000 deaths each year among non-smokers, nearly half of these deaths occur among women and over a quarter among children under the age of five. Therefore governments should make measures to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Tobacco industry routinely offers inducements and loans to farmers to begin growing, often based on unrealistically optimistic forecasts of prices and yields. Governments should ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Policy makers should take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts as in low and middle income countries, tobacco farming causes deforestation. Around 600 million trees are cut down every year to make room for tobacco crops. burned during the tobacco curing process and use for construction of curing barns. Tobacco farming in low and middle income countries also causes severe land and soil degradation and a host of other ecosystem disruptions.

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. We in Sri Lanka experienced tobacco industry's undue influence with litigation at the time of implementation of Pictorial Health Warnings, and suffered for over two and a half years. Even developed countries such as UK, New Zealand and Australia too have experience in regard to this issue. Therefore, policy makers should promote and establish peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development and provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

The World Health Organization, World Bank, UNDP, the wider UN system and other global and regional organizations have emphasized the importance of prioritizing tobacco control within the development agenda. Therefore strengthening implementation of the FCTC as part of achieving sustainable human development will provide a major boost to global development by delivering rapid and quantifiable benefits of lives saved and healthcare costs reduced, and a sustainable return on investment in a healthier, more able and productive global population.

The FCTC has encouraged countries around the world to implement science based measures to reduce tobacco use and improve health outcomes. Despite this progress, more work must be done to achieve global targets to reduce premature deaths from NCDs and to achieve future sustainable development goals. The process of the treaty has highlighted the tobacco industry's relentless efforts to fight these measures and sell more of its deadly and addictive products, especially in low and middle income countries.

Countries must be aggressive in fighting the tobacco epidemic as the tobacco industry is in perpetuating it. Yet national tobacco control and NCD programs in many low and middle income countries are inadequately staffed and seriously under resourced. Development assistance for tobacco control has been negligible - major philanthropic funding in recent years has made a significant impact, but more must be done, especially for small, but dedicated organizations and individuals.

All countries must commit to strengthening national tobacco control and NCD policies, in addition to reorienting health systems to address prevention of NCDs, most notably through tobacco control. It is especially critical that countries step up efforts to increase tobacco taxes, which is the most direct and effective strategy to reduce tobacco use and can provide sustainable domestic funding for tobacco control.

The Article 6 of the FCTC which is tobacco tax - country experience shows higher taxes increase government revenues, in spite of reduced consumption. A 10 percent increase in cigarette prices reduces cigarette demand by about 4 percent in high income countries and by about 6 percent in low and middle income countries. If tax increases result in just a 10 percent increase in cigarette prices, the number of smokers worldwide would decline by 42 million. Governments collect around $145 billion in tobacco excise tax revenues each year, and this increases to around $300 billion taking into account all taxes.

Approximately structured, tobacco taxes have the potential to pay for tobacco control, and for action on other sustainable development goals.

Prioritizing FCTC implementation in all countries is critical to the achievement of sustainable development goals. Meaningful financial and technical assistance is essential for success.

The 2017 WNTD campaign draws its attention in highlighting the links between the use of tobacco products, tobacco control and sustainable development.

Tobacco control advocates encourage countries to include tobacco control in their national responses to 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

- Asian Tribune -

World No Tobacco Day - 31 May 2017
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