Global NCD Agenda

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Call To Action

The tobacco control community must work closely with the broader movement addressing the global non-communicable disease (NCD) crisis; moreover, tobacco control proponents must stand together with other public health communities to lift the fight against NCDs to the very top of the global health and development agendas.

Share of deaths due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs); 2010

As economic development continues rapidly and as transnational tobacco, alcohol, food, and beverage companies aggressively promote unhealthy choices, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic lung disease, and cancer are becoming more important as causes of global morbidity and mortality. NCDs have surpassed communicable diseases (e.g. HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, diarrhea, pneumonia) as the leading causes of death in all but the lowest-income nations. Even in low-income countries, deaths from NCDs are rapidly approaching those of communicable disease. Tobacco is a driver of the development of most of the leading NCDs, including chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.

In 2011, world leaders gathered in New York for a United Nations high-level meeting to give NCDs new prominence in the health and development agendas. Private sector firms and trade associations tried to undermine strong action, and lobbied for self-regulation. Yet, with strong support from civil society, member states unanimously approved a declaration that acknowledges that fighting these diseases is a global priority requiring urgent action.

Multiple initiatives evolved after the United Nations summit, including formulation of the WHO Global NCD Action Plan, a set of nine specific targets toward preventing major NCDs by addressing their major risk factors. A key target is a 30% reduction in tobacco use prevalence by 2025 (see The Endgame).

The tobacco control community pioneered tools to limit markets for unhealthy commodities. Companies that profit from the sales of alcohol, sugary beverages, and foods with high fat, sugar, and salt content—all major NCD risk factors—use strategies similar to those of the tobacco industry. Proven and effective tobacco control measures, such as marketing bans, packaging and labeling regulations, and taxation, can also be used in addressing those other major NCD risk factors.


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Sharing the tools

Packaging regulations, a method employed to control tobacco use, can also serve to deter people from consuming other unhealthy products.

Existence of a global health treaty (WHO FCTC) as well as effective national and sub-national legislation make tobacco control a model for addressing other pressing NCD-related issues that require better regulations, including harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diet.



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Tobacco and NCDs

Risk factors for the leading non-communicable diseases worldwide

Tobacco use is a shared risk factor for the four leading non-communicable diseases in the world, causing 6.3 million deaths.



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“NCDs are one of the MAJOR CHALLENGES to sustainable human development in the 21st century, and therefore must be central to the post-2015 development agenda.” -Tezer Kutluk, President-Elect, Union for International Cancer Control, 2014

“Today, many of the threats to health that contribute to noncommunicable diseases come from corporations that are big, rich and powerful, driven by commercial interests, and far less friendly to health. Forget collaboration with the tobacco industry. Never trust this industry on any count, in any deal. Implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Doing so can avert around 5.5 million deaths each year at a cost, in a low-income setting, of less than 40 cents per person. There is no other “best buy” for the money on offer.”-Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, 2011

“There are certain things that microbes don’t do: microbes do not lobby politicians to allow them to continue to spread; they don’t spend billions of dollars to convince people that it’s cool to be infected; they don’t fund scientists to say it’s not so bad to get that infection or re-brand themselves as ‘light’ bacteria that might be less harmful…” -Dr. Thomas R Frieden Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, First Global Ministerial Conference on Healthy Lifestyles and NCD Control, Moscow, April 2011

“Mars is concerned that the introduction of mandatory plain packaging in the tobacco industry would also SET A KEY PRECEDENT for the application of similar legislation to other industries, including the food and non-alcoholic beverage industries in which Mars operates.” -The Mars Corporation to the UK government, 2012

One of the proposals for the 2011 UN NCD declaration included international restrictions on tobacco advertising. This point was rejected by delegates from some Western countries with strong tobacco industry presence and policies to protect their own citizenry.

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