Skip to content ↓
Press Room

Governments aren’t doing enough to reduce the health and economic cost of preventable lung cancer

(New York, USA) – Vital Strategies today called on governments to implement strong tobacco control policies in order to reduce the health and economic burden of lung cancer. Lung cancer is the cause of 19.4 percent of all cancer deaths. It is the most common cause of cancer-related death in men and second most common cause of cancer-related death in women, after breast cancer. Globally, it kills around 1.7 million people every year. This burden is largely preventable, as World Health Organization estimates that the majority of lung cancer cases are related to smoking. Around a third of cases are linked to air pollution and other environmental exposures including asbestos in the workplace and secondhand smoke.

José Luis Castro, President and CEO, Vital Strategies commented: “Lung cancer has been a leading cause of death for many decades. We know what causes this largely preventable disease, yet the number of people needlessly developing and dying from this terrible disease is increasing. This represents an abject failure of public policy, and is a stark reminder of the consequences of letting the tobacco industry’s interests override the imperative to protect public health.

“We know there is a time lag between increases in smoking rates and linked increases in lung cancer, so we are unlikely to have seen the peak in global lung cancer cases. But we do have an opportunity to ensure that burden is reduced in the future. Strong tobacco control policies – including high tobacco taxes – can inoculate future generations against the risk of developing lung cancer, while helping to fund the treatment of sufferers now and in the near future. Higher tobacco prices also encourage quitting, thereby reducing former smokers’ lifetime risks of lung cancer.

“In addition, we cannot ignore the role of air pollution in increasing the risk of lung cancer; including household pollution from solid fuel and kerosene burning as well as outdoor pollution from many sources. Other environmental exposures, such as asbestos in the workplace, also contribute to the global burden of lung cancer. These risks must be minimized through strong policy and enforcement measures that lead to cleaner sources of energy for home heating and cooking, renewable fuel for electrical power generation, and fewer emissions from vehicles.

“In addition to this World Lung Cancer Day, established by the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) and others, we reiterate our collective support for the Charter for Lung Health as well an annual World Lung Day, recognized by the UN, to reinforce that lung disease is a threat to global health and global development. Countries cannot meet their objectives under the Sustainable Development Goals without reducing the burden of non-communicable diseases, including lung cancer. Now is the time for all parties to act.”

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that seeks to accelerate progress on the world’s most pressing health problems. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health and tobacco control expert, please contact Tracey Johnston, Vital Strategies, at +44.7889.081.170 or