On World Cancer Day, Dr Gan Quan, Director of The Union’s Department of Tobacco Control, emphasises the urgent need to tackle tobacco use

On World Cancer Day, Dr Gan Quan, Director of The Union’s Department of Tobacco Control, emphasises the urgent need to tackle tobacco use

Over the next 10 years cancer deaths are projected to increase from 8.8 million to more than 14 million per year unless urgent preventative action is taken. At present, two thirds of these deaths occur in economically developing countries.

On this World Cancer Day, 4 February 2018, we consider these figures in stark contrast to the clear and ambitious target set out in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) three years ago – to reduce mortality from non-communicable diseases, which include cancer, by one third by 2030.

Tobacco use claims more than seven million lives each year. It is known to cause at least 14 types of cancer: oesophagus, mouth, lung, larynx, bladder, pancreas, kidney, liver, stomach, bowel, cervix, ovary, nose and sinuses, as well as some types of leukaemia.

The best hope for attaining the SDGs’ target for reducing non-communicable diseases, including cancer, lies with tackling tobacco use.

To do this The Union calls on countries to accelerate their use of the tool embedded in the SDGs -- the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). This health treaty is designed to end the tobacco epidemic through evidence-based measures that reduce tobacco use at population level, over the long-term, when enforced by a country at best-practice levels.

Much has been achieved since the WHO FCTC came into force 10 years ago. 181 countries are now legally committed to enforcing measures which include: comprehensive tobacco tax increases, bans on tobacco advertising promotion and sponsorship, and powerful health warnings on tobacco packaging. Tobacco use is now declining in several countries and regions where WHO FCTC measures are well implemented, but population growth globally means the absolute number of tobacco users is not yet decreasing. And nearly 80 percent of the world’s one billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.

Next month in Cape Town, South Africa, tobacco control experts, policymakers, advocates and media will convene at the 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health – an event that could prove pivotal for taking urgent action on global development goals. It is only through international collaboration, solidarity and concerted mobilisation that we will overcome the tobacco epidemic and end the suffering it causes for many millions of people. We must unite if we are to become a tobacco-free generation.

To find out more about the conference click here.