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Friday, May 24, 2024

WHO releases report on global tobacco use

Brazil has witnessed a 35% relative reduction since 2010, while the Netherlands is on the brink of reaching its 30% target.

The World Health Organization (WHO) tobacco trends report was released yesterday, a glimmer of hope shines through the somber statistics surrounding global tobacco use. The report indicates a continued decline in tobacco consumption rates worldwide, with approximately 1 in 5 adults currently using tobacco, down from 1 in 3 in the year 2000. This positive trend is attributed to successful tobacco control measures implemented by 150 countries, showcasing a collective effort towards a tobacco-free world.

Success Stories 

Among the success stories, Brazil and the Netherlands stand out, having achieved remarkable reductions in tobacco use following the implementation of MPOWER tobacco control measures. Brazil has witnessed a 35% relative reduction since 2010, while the Netherlands is on the brink of reaching its 30% target. These achievements underscore the effectiveness of evidence-based policies in curbing the tobacco epidemic.

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Industry Tactics and Ongoing Challenges

Despite these strides, the WHO warns against complacency, shedding light on the relentless efforts of the tobacco industry to prioritize profits over public health. Dr. Ruediger Krech, Director of the WHO Department of Health Promotion, emphasizes the industry’s manipulative tactics, seizing opportunities to influence health policies and promote their harmful products. The report reveals that the tobacco industry continues to interfere with health policies globally, demanding a vigilant stance from governments.

WHO Urges Continued Action

Regional variations persist, with the WHO South-East Asian Region having the highest tobacco use rate at 26.5%, closely followed by the European Region at 25.3%. Alarmingly, projections indicate that by 2030, the WHO European Region may have the highest global prevalence, exceeding 23%. The slow reduction of tobacco use among women in this region, doubling the global average, raises concerns about gender-specific challenges. The WHO stresses the need for continued efforts in implementing and enforcing tobacco control policies, particularly in regions with higher prevalence rates.

Missed Targets and Lingering Concerns

While progress has been made, the global goal of achieving a 30% reduction in tobacco use by 2025 from the 2010 baseline is likely to be missed. The report highlights that only 56 countries are projected to reach this goal, down from the previous report in 2021. Moreover, in some countries, tobacco use has shown little change since 2010, and six countries are experiencing a concerning rise in tobacco consumption. This underlines the urgency for countries to intensify their efforts in tobacco control.

Protecting Future Generations 

A notable concern revealed by the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2023 is the increasing interference of the tobacco industry in health policies globally. Recognizing the vulnerability of children aged 13–15 years, WHO plans to dedicate this year’s World No Tobacco Day to “Protecting Children from Tobacco Industry Interference.” The aim is to safeguard the well-being of future generations by curbing the industry’s influence on youth.

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As countries prepare to convene in Panama for the 10th Session of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Conference of Parties, concerns are raised about potential industry interference. The tobacco industry’s attempts to influence global health policies through financial and in-kind incentives threaten countries’ rights to protect their populations. Strengthening the WHO FCTC remains a global health priority outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals. The WHO stands ready to support countries in defending evidence-based tobacco control measures in the face of industry interference.