Earlier this month, we attended the 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health , held in Cape Town, South Africa--the first time on the African continent. While we celebrated the effort made by the global community to implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) over the past decade, it was sobering to realize that a greatly intensified and sustained effort is required in the future. Business as usual will not suffice.
Regulating tobacco use using excise taxation, restrictions on smoking in public places, and restrictions on youth access and sale of tobacco products is now a widely-accepted policy action to prevent its harmful health effects. The ruling by the United States Federal District Court that ordered the country’s four largest cigarette makers to make “corrective statements” to inform the public about the harms of cigarettes, including light and low-tar cigarettes, which began on November 26, 2017 for one year, using prime-time television commercials and full-page ads in newspapers, only confirms what is already known on the basis of accumulated evidence over the past half century: the manipulation of cigarette design and composition to ensure optimum nicotine delivery have led to addiction, ill health, and premature mortality and disability among smokers and among those exposed to secondhand smoke. And the recent decision by the Vatican to ban duty-free cigarette sales is a good example of how societal attitude towards tobacco use has changed: a sovereign state is willing to forego revenue from products that clearly harm people's health.
The accumulated evidence over the past half century on the causal relationship between smoking and harm to health provides us with a robust scientific foundation to inform policy design and action.
El tabaco es sin duda uno de los riesgos más importantes para la salud pública que nos toca enfrentar. A partir de la publicación del emblemático Informe del Cirujano General de Estados Unidos de 1964 acerca de los daños a la salud atribuibles al consumo de tabaco que proporcionó la evidencia que relacionaba al tabaquismo con enfermedades de casi todos los órganos del cuerpo (véase el gráfico abajo), la comunidad internacional comenzó lentamente a darse cuenta que la larga epidemia del hábito de fumar cigarrillos estaba causando una enorme catástrofe en materia de salud pública en todo el mundo, y que esta se podía prevenir.
Tobacco is arguably one of the most significant threats to public health we have ever faced. Since the publication of the landmark U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Tobacco and Health in 1964, that provided evidence linking smoking to diseases of nearly all organs of the body (see graph below), the international community slowly began to realize that a century-long epidemic of cigarette smoking was causing an enormous, avoidable public health catastrophe across the world.
For 2016's World No Tobacco Day, celebrated today, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) are calling on countries to get ready for plain packaging of tobacco products. Why, may you ask?