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E-Cigs, Heated Tobacco Products Threaten Global Progress on Tobacco Control, Placing Children and Adolescents in Harm’s Way

Statement from Vital Strategies on the launch of the World Health Organization’s 2021 Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 

Vital Strategies welcomes the new World Health Organization Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2021, which provides an update on global progress in adopting proven measures as part of the WHO MPOWER package to reduce tobacco use. Rebecca Perl, Vice President of Partnerships and Initiatives, and Tom Carroll, Senior Advisor, provided technical assistance for this report, including their expertise on tobacco control mass media campaigns to promote policies and behavior change and input on electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and heated tobacco products (HTPs).  

“Despite an extremely challenging year, some 5.3 billion people are now covered by at least one World Health Organization-recommended tobacco control measure. This is real progress,” said José Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies. “Governments hold the key to reducing tobacco use now and for generations to come by enforcing tobacco control laws like those outlined in the report, and extending those regulations to all tobacco and nicotine products. It is time that countries strengthen efforts to implement policies to reduce tobacco use and also regulate new products as they come to market, as outlined in the report.”  

“The tobacco industry’s ramped up marketing of ENDS and HTPs, especially to young people, is a real threat,” said Rebecca Perl, Vice President of Partnerships and Initiatives at Vital Strategies. “With its intent on hooking a new generation of tobacco users, the industry is snatching young people’s opportunities, experiences and future potential by shortening their lives. Young people who use new products such as ENDS and HTPs are more likely to regularly use conventional cigarettes, as cited in the report. Yet remarkably 84 countries still have no regulations and restrictions at all on these products.”

“ENDS and HTPs are not risk-free. Amidst the pandemic, the dangers that tobacco presents have become even more evident,” said Tom Carroll, Senior Advisor at Vital Strategies. “Current smokers are more likely to suffer severe outcomes from COVID-19, including increased risk of death compared with non-smokers. The world’s more than 1 billion smokers face increased risk of noncommunicable diseases like cancer, heart disease and stroke, and chronic lung disease.” 

The World Health Organization Global Tobacco Epidemic Report is a Call to Action:  

Although billions of people are protected by at least one MPOWER measure, progress across all the MPOWER measures has been uneven. WHO’s report shows that governments are slow to raise tobacco taxes, one of the most effective policies to reduce tobacco use, with only 13% of the world’s population covered by best-practice implementation of this measure. This report offers a clear call to countries to aggressively pursue all the proven policies set out in the MPOWER package to reduce tobacco use. Strong action and political will are imperative to making the next generation truly tobacco-free.  

About Vital Strategies’ work in tobacco control: 

Vital Strategies works globally and in more than 40 countries to support the adoption of proven policies to reduce tobacco use. Our global team of experts uses policy advocacy and strategic communication to help governments adopt lifesaving public health “best buys” such as comprehensive smoke-free laws and tobacco taxes. Our evidence-based campaigns have been seen by more than 2 billion people around the world. We partner with American Cancer Society to produce The Tobacco Atlas, (sixth ed.) the most comprehensive report on the evolving global tobacco epidemic. Vital Strategies is a main partner in the $1 billion Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use and a partner in STOP, a global tobacco industry watchdog. 

For more information Vital Strategies’ work in tobacco control, please visit: https://www.vitalstrategies.org/programs/tobacco-control/ 

About Vital Strategies  

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat