Tobacco kills more than 7 million people per year and is costing the world economy USD 1.4 trillion annually

May 26, 2017

Global estimates show that every year tobacco use costs the global economy USD 1.4 trillion. Photo: UNDP

A new report from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) echoes the theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day, 31 May 2017: Tobacco - a threat to development.

The core message of the new report: The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – an Accelerator for Sustainable Development, is that tobacco is both harmful to health and uniquely undermines sustainable development efforts across economic, social and environmental dimensions. In every region of the world, the poor are most likely to smoke and are the targets of the tobacco industry’s predatory marketing strategies. Not only do poor families spend proportionately more of their family income on tobacco, but because of out-of-pocket health expenditures to address tobacco-related illness, poor households can be pushed further into poverty.

“Tobacco use kills more than 7 million people around the world each year. Tobacco use causes serious disability and significantly increases the risk of a number of additional diseases not immediately linked to it such as tuberculosis. It is the wider economic and development impacts of tobacco that must be understood. With the tobacco industry doing all it can to increase tobacco consumption in in low- and middle income countries, we must all take action to bring tobacco use to an end” says Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, Head of the Convention Secretariat.

Global estimates show that every year tobacco use costs the global economy USD 1.4 trillion, nearly 2 percent of global gross domestic product, but take into consideration only medical expenses and lost productive capacities. In addition to the health and economic consequences for individuals, families and nations, tobacco growing causes up to 5 percent of deforestation worldwide and results in biodiversity loss and soil degradation, as well as water and soil pollution from pesticide use.

“Effective tobacco control through the implementation of the WHO FCTC is essential for development. Saving lives, while growing economies, protecting the environment and providing resources for other sustainable development efforts is exactly the type of win-win action that can help countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” says Magdy Martinez-Soliman, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Assistant Administrator and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support.

The new report proposes solutions. Long considered primarily a health priority, the discussion paper outlines how tobacco control can accelerate sustainable development. With implementation of the WHO FCTC included as a target in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the report shows how effective tobacco control can contribute to the achievement of almost all the other SDGs, including poverty alleviation and inequity reduction, decent work and economic growth and environmental sustainability.

Action is underway to support low and middle income countries to implement the WHO FCTC. UNDP is working closely with the Convention Secretariat on the “FCTC 2030” project to support low and middle income countries to strengthen tobacco control.

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