In the light of the global pandemic, there have been calls to abolish, repurpose or revitalize the World Health Organization. I am firmly in the revitalize camp. Naturally, most of the hindsight has focused on the WHO’s response to infectious diseases.
In April 2021, Covid-19 deaths are approaching 3 million worldwide. However, according to the WHO, tobacco-related deaths exceed 8 million annually. So what would new thinking on the WHO’s approach to tobacco policy look like? Here is my seven-point reform plan.
1. Commit to the goals that make a real difference
The WHO is the lead agency for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3—“Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” This broad goal is broken down into 13 targets, and SDG 3.4 is the target that really matters in tobacco policy:
“By 2030, reduce by one-third premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being [compared to 2015].”
This target should become the mission statement for the WHO’s work on tobacco. The WHO should have a laser focus on addressing severe disease—dying in agony of cancer, dropping dead with a heart attack, living in misery with emphysema—reducing real harms as far as possible as quickly as possible.
Clive Bates – Tobacco Reporter – 2021-05-01.