By Nformi Sonde Kinsai In Cape Town, South Africa
A new global initiative, Stopping Tobacco Organisations and Products, STOP that will aggressively monitor deceptive tobacco industry and practices undermining public health has been launched.
Michael Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies made the announcement in Cape Town, South Africa, March 7 during the 17th World Conference on Health or Tobacco, WCTOH. The event is placed under the theme: “Uniting the World for a Tobacco Free Generation.”
At the opening plenary, various speakers called for a renewed focus on tobacco control policies to help users quit and to prevent non-users from becoming addicted.
The organisers said “international collaboration is vital for tracking tobacco use, which remains the world’s leading preventable cause of death, killing more than seven million people each year.”
Michael Bloomberg told reporters at a press conference prior to the opening plenary that the Bloomberg Philanthropies would provide FCFA 10567320000.00(US$20 million) in funding.
The new Bloomberg initiative will expose how tobacco industry targets kids, fights life-saving solutions across the globe.
He disclosed that global tobacco control measures have saved nearly 35 million lives around the world, even though; tobacco industry is pushing to find new users.
The South African Health Minister, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, said his country is honoured to be co-hosting the international conference with world experts and fellow health workers.
He said the event will serve as avenue “to address this epidemic by working together to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure. Tobacco has no benefits to humanity whatsoever as the tobacco industry is poisoning people to death,” he declared.
The WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, corroborated, stating that tobacco use is a barrier to sustainable development on all fronts.
“Now is the time for leaders to implement strong policies proven to protect their citizens from tobacco,” he appealed.
On her part, Dr. Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, Secretariat Head of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, FCTC, told delegates that tobacco control was at the heart of the new Sustainable Development Agenda.
“By accelerating the implementation of the WHO FCTC, the Global Tobacco Control Treaty, and becoming Parties to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, countries can facilitate the achievement of their goals by 2030 and save tens of millions of lives,” she stated.
The Executive Director of The Union, Secretariat for WCTOH, José Luis Castro, observed that as the communities are gathering momentum to protect health and economies from the devastation of tobacco use, the tobacco industry is stepping up efforts to extend their market by all possible means.
“We must be single-minded in our focus, and work to strengthen the future WHO FCTC measures in all countries around the world.”
In a statement on Bloomberg’s announcement, Mathew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, CTFK , noted that: “this new initiative will help ensure the public and policy makers know the truth about the tobacco industry and its deadly and deceptive practices around the world.”
This initiative couldn’t be timelier. It comes as tobacco giants such as Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco are waging duplicitous PR campaigns claiming to be changed, responsible companies that want to help solve the tobacco problem. Philip Morris is even funding a so-called “Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.”
Statistics show that tobacco use kills more than seven million people worldwide each year. To save lives, governments across the globe must stand up to the tobacco industry and fully implement the proven strategies called for by the tobacco control treaty, the FCTC. These include significant tobacco tax increases, comprehensive smoke-free laws, advertising bans and large, graphic health warnings.