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Tobacco Control Efforts Have Slowed: Report

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Implementation of tobacco control policy measures required by the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) decelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new data acquired by the Global Tobacco Control Progress Hub.

The MPOWER tobacco control scorecard, which reports country-level implementation of key FCTC policy measures, reveals that two-thirds (68 percent) of 195 countries reported no improvement or a reduction in key policies to reduce tobacco use between 2020 and 2022, with one-third of countries (35 percent) reporting a decline. Only 32 percent of reporting countries reported an improvement.

The largest declines occurred in low-income countries and those located in the eastern Mediterranean and southeast Asia. However, the slowdown was observed around the globe.

“We are very concerned with the deceleration in the adoption of high-impact tobacco control policies,” said Joanna Cohen of the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in a statement.

“This disruption is very troubling, especially following 12 years of steady progress in implementing these policies. We urge all countries to redouble efforts to reduce tobacco use to make up for lost ground. We cannot allow this setback to further impair global efforts to curb the tobacco epidemic. Progress delayed is improved health denied.”

The news comes prior to an abbreviated summit of the FCTC treaty scheduled for later this week in Geneva. The treaty’s 10th Conference of the Parties (COP10) is being convened virtually on Nov. 23 and Nov. 24, to be followed by a full session in early 2024.

“This slowdown is a wake-up call and we urge all countries to adopt strong measures to get tobacco control back on track and reignite global efforts to reduce tobacco use,” said Les Hagen of ASH Canada.

“The enactment of high-impact tobacco control policies was delayed during the Covid-19 pandemic, and we cannot allow the tobacco industry to take further advantage of the situation. This disturbing slowdown could have dire consequences for millions of people worldwide, especially if it is sustained. We urge all FCTC Parties to throttle up efforts to reduce tobacco use and bend the curve back to its previous trajectory.”

Introduced in 2003 by the WHO, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is the world’s only public health treaty. The treaty is credited with preventing millions of deaths resulting from tobacco use. Tobacco kills over eight million people annually worldwide, representing one of the leading causes of death and disease.

The Global Tobacco Control Progress Hub is an independent public health treaty surveillance platform and it is a collaboration of ASH Canada and the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.