FCTC: Does it work? #COP10

In this article we look at a report posted on the Documentation – Supplementary information page on the FCTC COP10 website.  Authored by the Secretariat, the report is titled: ‘Contribution and impact of implementing the WHO FCTC on achieving the noncommunicable disease global target on the reduction of tobacco use’. This report complements the ‘main document’ titled FCTC/COP/10/4: Global progress in implementation of the FCTC, which we wrote about here

This supplementary document does a far better job than the ‘main document’(10/4) in describing progress made against the ultimate objective, which is to reduce death and disease from smoking.  In contrast, FCTC/COP/10/4 mentions prevalence only twice and smoking is mentioned only once: in the context of the implementation of smoke-free laws.  However, although the report we are discussing today does better at describing the problem, it clearly shows the FCTC is not working.

This supplementary document tells us that global tobacco prevalence is estimated to have fallen from 29% in 2005 to 20% in 2022. What the report doesn’t tell us though, is how much smoking has fallen. Smoking is the key driver of death and disease, not tobacco use per se (just look at Sweden). The major problem here is that the metric is wrong – we need to know what is happening with smoking.

Second, whatever the FCTC is doing, it is not working. Only 30% of the countries which have ratified the FCTC are on track to achieve a decrease in tobacco prevalence by 30% by 2025.

This quote from the supplementary report sums up the situation:

“Trends evident from surveys completed by Parties, with projections to 2025, show that most Parties need to accelerate tobacco control activities in order to achieve the voluntary target of the Global Action Plan 2013–2030 to reduce tobacco use by 30% between 2010 and 2025. While the prevalence of current tobacco use among people 15 or older, averaged across all Parties, is estimated to have declined from 29% in 2005 to 20% in 2022, progress is uneven. Of note, 102 Parties are not on track to achieve the reduction target unless additional policies and stronger policies are urgently put in place and effectively enforced.”

This WHO response will be familiar to Copwatch readers: that we need to do more of the same (things that don’t work) and ban products that could actually help us reduce smoking. We respectfully disagree: Sweden, Norway, Japan, UK and New Zealand are achieving far more rapid progress in reducing smoking because consumers can access life-saving alternatives. Taking away these alternatives not only defies logic and common sense, but will also literally kill people.