Statement from José Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies, on World No Tobacco Day, May 31, 2023
“Tobacco use—responsible for 8 million deaths each year—is the greatest single source of preventable death and disease. For close to two decades, Vital Strategies has partnered with governments around the world, co-creating solutions that change policies—and attitudes—about the use of tobacco.
“Tobacco control works. Thanks to the tireless work of tobacco control advocates, since 2007, global smoking rates have fallen from 22.7% in 2007 to 19.6% in 2019. Global cigarette sales have also plummeted, with 750 billion fewer cigarettes sold in 2021 compared to 2012, and 57 countries have implemented smoke-free laws.
“While global smoking rates are dropping, there’s much more work to do and we need to accelerate adoption of proven interventions. Tobacco use remains a global epidemic, with 1.3 billion tobacco users in the world. Meanwhile, the tobacco industry continues to try and expand their reach and profits by targeting countries with weak regulatory environments and pushing novel products in previously untapped markets. We cannot let them.
“Year after year, we remain dedicated champions, determined to protect the millions of lives affected by tobacco. As the tobacco industry’s tactics grow more covert and insidious, we need more champions working alongside us—from government leaders to the private sector to civil society organizations. Now is not the time to idle; lives are on the line.
“The path forward is clear: We must expand the coverage of the World Health Organization’s MPOWER package of policies and initiatives, which prioritizes tax increases, bans on tobacco advertising, and strengthening smoke-free legislation. We know it has a significant effect in countries where it’s implemented.
“We have proudly worked to drive MPOWER implementation and supported 44 countries to reduce global tobacco use by delivering evidence-based, population-level campaigns and building local capacity to highlight the dangers of tobacco. To date, our campaigns have been seen by more than 2 billion people, and since 2019 we’ve contributed to 66 policy wins including national comprehensive tobacco control laws in Mexico and Ukraine, smoke-free cities in China, and increased tobacco taxes in Turkey and Pakistan. In addition, our STOP initiative works to shine a light on the tobacco industries’ malicious and deadly activities.
At Vital Strategies, we’re committed to ensuring everyone, everywhere, is protected by a strong public health system. That includes protection from the harms of tobacco and the tobacco industry. On World No Tobacco Day, we urge governments to accelerate the critical work of tobacco control: to promote tobacco control policies, support communication campaigns, and openly challenge the tobacco industry’s tactics. Together, we can reverse this global epidemic.”
For more information on Vital Strategies’ work in tobacco control, please visit our Tobacco Control Program page.
About Vital Strategies
Vital Strategies believes every person should be protected by an equitable and effective public health system. We partner with governments, communities and organizations around the world to reimagine public health so that health is supported in all the places we live, work and play. The result is millions of people living longer, healthier lives.