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Unprecedented MPOWER Progress Shows that Battle Against the Tobacco Epidemic is Winnable


The following text is by Michael R. Bloomberg from the sixth World Health Organization Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2017. Download the report here:

One in 10 deaths around the world is caused by tobacco use. To fight this deadly epidemic, Bloomberg Philanthropies has committed nearly US $1 billion over the past 10 years to support tobacco control efforts in low- and middle-income countries. Working in partnership with WHO and governments across the globe, we have helped save at least 30 million lives. This is very encouraging, but there is still a long way to go. We remain committed to staying in- and winning- the fight.

Over the past decade, the percentage of the world’s population covered by at least one of six MPOWER measures- a group of policies shown to reduce tobacco use- grew from 15% to more than 60%. Today, thanks to these measures and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, over 3.5 billion people are better protected from tobacco, and global sales of cigarettes are down.

This WHO report does more than lay out the global momentum building to tackle the tobacco epidemic: it helps motivate countries by showing the effectiveness of proven- and replicable- solutions.

Some of the greatest gains in the fight against tobacco have come over the past two years. For instance, graphic pack warnings are now in place in India and throughout the European Union. Today, nearly half the world’s population lives in countries with strong graphic warnings on tobacco packaging- more than twice the number of people than were protected at the time of the last edition of this report in 2015. Yet, while increasing tobacco taxes to an adequate level is the most effective measure to reduce use, only 10% of the world’s population is covered by such a tax- the lowest adoption rate of any MPOWER policy.

Last year I was appointed WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases. Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) are a global health crisis, killing nearly 40 million people each year- many from tobacco-related causes. Yet efforts to stop these diseases remain overlooked and underfunded. Despite NCDs accounting for 67% of all deaths in low- and middle-income countries, only 1% of all global health funding goes towards preventing them.

The good news: there are proven, life-saving strategies to combat this global challenge, and the MPOWER tobacco control measures are at the top of the list. The progress that has been made worldwide- and documented throughout this report- shows that it is possible for countries to turn the tide. Bloomberg Philanthropies looks forward to partnering with Director-General Ghebreyesus and continuing our work with WHO to fight all of these preventable causes of death.

More countries are making tobacco control a priority. But not enough. Together, we can encourage more of them to follow the examples highlighted in this report- and save millions more lives.

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