WHO FCTC head calls for multisectoral action on NCD-related SDGs through tobacco control

October 7, 2020


During a week of high-level meetings at the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) co-sponsored a virtual side event on 24 September 2020 entitled Working with Member States to deliver the non-communicable disease-related Sustainable Development Goal targets during and beyond COVID-19. Other co-sponsors included the Russian Federation and the World Health Organization (WHO), which serves as the Secretariat of the United Nations Interagency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases (UNIATF).

Russian Minister of Health H.E. Dr Mikhail Murashko, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WHO Deputy Director-General Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab co-chaired the event that brought together more than 10 high-level panellists, 320 registered attendees and many others who followed the event via United Nations Web TV.

Among the panellists, Dr Adriana Blanco Marquizo, Head of the Convention Secretariat, discussed the impact of the WHO FCTC and the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the ongoing battle against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Implementation of the WHO FCTC has resulted in a steady decrease globally in tobacco use among adult men and women across all income groups – a trend that is projected to continue. However, our work is far from over. The total number of adult tobacco users – around 1.4 billion – remains unacceptably high.

Dr Blanco Marquizo noted that tobacco epidemic is a development issue, as tobacco use increases the devastating burden of NCDs. She highlighted how Member States, the United Nations family and other partners can take a multisectoral approach – through the WHO FCTC and the Protocol – to combat the tobacco epidemic and offer a healthier and sustainable future for all.

The WHO FCTC has been recognized globally as an accelerator for sustainable development. This is clear from the inclusion of Target 3.a in the SDGs, which calls on all countries to strengthen implementation of the WHO FCTC. But the sole presence of the WHO FCTC on the development agenda is no guarantee of success. Many challenges can compromise further progress, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic and the omnipresent, never-ending interference of the tobacco industry in tobacco control efforts.

“If the implementation of the WHO FCTC and the Protocol are not strengthened, the projected decrease of one third in the prevalence of tobacco use is not going to be achieved by 2030,” said Dr Blanco Marquizo. “And this, inevitably, will impact another important goal, the decrease by one third of premature mortality due to noncommunicable diseases.”

She said that addressing NCDs in general and tobacco use in particular must be an integral part of the immediate COVID-19 response and the recovery at the global, regional and national levels, as well as part of building-back-better strategies.

The Convention Secretariat warmly congratulated the 2020 UNIATF awardees for their outstanding contribution to combatting NCDs and to tobacco control. Some of the winners work in areas closely related to the work of the Convention Secretariat, among them:

  • the Department of Health and Social Care, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, for its commitment to tackling tobacco use in low- and middle-income countries through the FCTC 2030 project (which is managed by the Convention Secretariat)
  • the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway for developing a national NCD development policy for 2020–2024 (Norway also provides funding for the FCTC 2030 project);
  • the Ministry of Health of Armenia, one of the FCTC 2030 project countries, for its efforts to tackle the growing burden of NCDs, including the development of a new tobacco control strategy; and
  • the McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, Australia (a WHO FCTC Knowledge Hub on legal challenges), for its work using the law to prevent NCDs and advance equitable health care for all.

Working together for multisectoral action on the NCD and health-related SDGs

UNIATF brings together over 40 United Nations agencies, as well as the World Bank and regional development banks. The Secretariat of the WHO FCTC is an independent member of the Task Force, ensuring that implementation of the WHO FCTC remains a key focus.

The Convention Secretariat has been a member of UNIATF since 2013 and chairs the Tobacco Control Thematic Group and also takes the lead in promoting the Model Policy to prevent tobacco industry interference in the work of United Nations agencies. The Convention Secretariat also advocates for 100% smoke-free United Nations campuses, leads a joint project on promoting economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing and supports initiatives on tobacco control among school-aged children.