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Press Room

Health Ministries Urged to Implement Tobacco Control Policies to Reduce NCD Deaths

Note: World Lung Foundation united with The Union North America. From January 2016, the combined organization is known as “Vital Strategies.”

(Moscow, Russia and New York, United States) – World Lung Foundation today urged health ministers attending a critical meeting on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) to make reducing tobacco use a centerpiece of their prevention efforts. Tobacco use causes 35% of all lung disease, 26% of all cancers and 11% of all heart diseases and stroke, making it the leading cause of preventable death and the most significant risk factor for NCDs.

On April 28 and 29, more than 100 Ministers of Health and 150 government delegations from around the world will attend the First Global Ministerial Conference on Healthy Lifestyles and Non-Communicable Disease Control. The World Health Organization will also release its first ever report on the global status of NCDs.

Professor Judith Mackay, Senior Advisor, World Lung Foundation commented: “We don’t need a scientific or genetic breakthrough to reduce the single biggest cause of NCD deaths; all we need is a commitment from every country to implement sensible cost-effective tobacco control policies. Millions of deaths could be prevented by increasing tobacco taxes, making public places 100% smoke-free, educating people on the harms of tobacco and eliminating tobacco advertising and sponsorship.

More than 170 countries agreed to take such steps when they ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global health treaty. Yet, less than 10% of the world’s population is covered by its key policies. Governments must act more aggressively to turn the tide against NCDs.”

Professor Mackay will be an official Rapporteur at the Inter-ministerial meeting and is available for interview; she co- authored a recent report in The Lancet that underlined the burden of NCDs and recommended strategies for reducing the burden of these diseases.

WLF also commended the Russian Government on the steps it has taken towards more effective tobacco control and for co-hosting the global NCD meeting in Moscow.

Peter Baldini, Chief Executive Officer at World Lung Foundation said: “For the first time, the global community is coming together to take the NCD issue seriously and Russia has taken a leadership role in the discussion by hosting this all-important forum. Russia’s government has also made commendable strides in their own tobacco control measures. We look forward to building on this momentum to protect the health of Russian citizens and of all those harmed by tobacco use and NCDs.”

WLF has provided technical assistance to Russian partners to conduct mass media campaigns that warn citizens about the harms of tobacco use. Research has shown that mass media campaigns are one of the most effective means to encourage people to stop smoking. It is one of the World Health Organization’s MPOWER (W=Warn) strategies to reduce tobacco consumption in alignment with the FCTC. MPOWER strategies are endorsed and promoted by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, of which WLF is a principal partner.

WLF is also a partner in the NCD Alliance, which advocates for the inclusion of NCDs in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Working toward a high-level summit meeting that will be attended by heads of state and leading global policy makers in September 2011, WLF has pledged its full support to ensuring NCDs and risk factors such as tobacco use are appropriately addressed at the Summit. Working with other tobacco-control partners, WLF launched an online advocacy campaign in March 2011. empowers the public to call upon their governments to take strong action against tobacco at the U.N. Summit on NCDs, an effort that has garnered activism in more than 70 countries.