One billion people are projected to die this century from tobacco-related causes, including more than 400,000 Americans each year. These deaths are preventable.
In June, President Obama signed into law the bipartisan Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act to curb the ability of tobacco companies to market products to children, and to reduce tobacco consumption in the United States. The Act adopts many of the evidence-based policies recommended by the World Health Organization and embodied in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The Act stops tobacco companies from using appealing flavors such as strawberry and chocolate to market cigarettes to children; it implements new warning labels on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products; it forces companies to more clearly and publicly acknowledge the harmful and deadly effects of products they sell; and it allows scientists at the FDA to take steps to reduce the harmful effects of smoking. With this law, the U.S. government has taken strong steps to reduce the single most preventable cause of death in America.
Protecting kids and the public from tobacco is also important around the world. There are 1.2 billion smokers already worldwide, and tobacco use in developing countries is on the rise. Reversing this trend—through proven interventions such as monitoring tobacco data, protecting people from tobacco smoke, offering help to people who want to quit tobacco use, applying sensible limits on tobacco advertising, raising the price of tobacco, and warning the public about the dangers of tobacco—will save millions of lives.
In his remarks at the signing of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, President Obama committed to work with the U.S. partners at the World Health Organization and other nations to fight the tobacco epidemic. Many U.S. agencies are already active in this area—for example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helps conduct surveys on tobacco use around the world, and the Fogarty International Center sponsors cutting-edge research relevant to global tobacco issues. The Obama Administration considers these efforts important and is exploring ways to better support countries in implementing commonsense public health measures to reduce the harms of tobacco.
This week marks the fifth anniversary of the entry into force of the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, a treaty to reduce tobacco's devastating health consequences around the world. We join with others across the world who are concerned about public health in their own countries and recognize the urgency of curbing the tobacco epidemic. All nations, including our own, should work to save lives by helping communities take on this most preventable cause of death.
Bob Kocher is Special Assistant to the President for Healthcare & Economic Policy
Tino Cuellar is Special Assistant to the President for Justice & Regulatory Policy
Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Policy at the Office of Science and Technology Policy