Remarks by Dr Michael O'Leary, WHO Representative in China, at the Ceremony of the 25th World No Tobacco Day in China
Ladies and gentlemen,
The theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day is Stop tobacco industry interference in tobacco control.
This campaign focuses on the need to expose and counter the tobacco industry's brazen and increasingly aggressive attempts to undermine global tobacco control.
As we know, tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death, in the world and in China. It kills nearly 6 million people worldwide each year, of which more than 600,000 die from second-hand smoke exposure. Every year in China, about 1 million people die from a tobacco-related heart attack, stroke, cancer, lung ailment or other disease.
If current trends continue, by 2030 tobacco will kill more than 8 million people worldwide every year, with 80% of these premature deaths occurring among people in low- and middle-income countries.
Tobacco use is also responsible for hundreds of billions of dollars of economic losses worldwide every year.
We know what works to curb the tobacco epidemic. The action we need to take is laid out in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. So far, 173 nations including China have pledged to work together to implement the Convention.
However, these tobacco control efforts are systematically opposed by the tobacco industry.
Historically, the tobacco industry has used its economic power, lobbying, marketing machinery, and manipulation of the media to discredit scientific research and influence governments in order to propagate the sale and distribution of its deadly product.
Recently, in an attempt to halt the adoption of graphic health warnings on packages of tobacco, the industry used the novel tactic of suing countries under bilateral investment agreements, claiming that the warnings impinge the companies' attempts to use their legally-registered brands.
The industry also seeks to interfere with the policy making process by subverting attempts to ban smoking in enclosed public places and to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
Therefore, on World No Tobacco Day 2012, and throughout this year, WHO urges countries all over the world to put the fight against tobacco industry interference at the heart of their efforts to control the global tobacco epidemic.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The tobacco epidemic is entirely man-made, and it can be turned around through concerted efforts. Everyone can help. Government, nongovernmental organizations, academia and individual citizens can all act to put an end to tobacco industry interference.
China has made significant progress in tobacco control. China’s 12th Five-Year Plan has called for smoke-free public places to contribute to the target of improved life expectancy.
Several cities in China such as Harbin and Tianjin are using this World No Tobacco Day as the occasion to launch their revised tobacco control regulations that will ensure more tobacco-free public places and workplaces.
Today, the WHO congratulates the Ministry of Health for launching China's Report on the Health Hazards of Smoking. This marks an important milestone in the history of public health in China in the context of controlling the tobacco related non-communicable diseases affecting so many families and communities.
Following the release of this report, there will be an educational campaign designed to increase the knowledge level on the harms of tobacco. The secondary products which are released will be aimed at healthcare professionals and the general public.
These are all important and significant achievements. But much more needs to be done. In line with Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention, on this World No Tobacco Day, WHO calls for:
- Government to be alert to and resist efforts by the tobacco industry to undermine or disrupt tobacco control initiatives;
- We call for non-governmental organizations to monitor and raise awareness of non-compliance of the tobacco industry with national law;
- And we also call for individuals to be aware of the tactics of the tobacco industry in interfering with tobacco control.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
By implementing the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, in line with the 12th Five-Year Plan, China can save millions of lives, and avert massive costs, both economic and humanitarian. In this way, China is part of a global movement to end the burden of death and disease caused by tobacco.
WHO will continue to support China in its adherence to Framework Convention obligations, to control the epidemic of tobacco use and to reduce the toll of tobacco-related diseases and deaths. We will work together to improve the health and life of the people of China.