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Global advocacy for controlling the tobacco industry

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Readers of the Medical Journal of Australia might be forgiven for assuming that the global impact of the tobacco industry has been greatly reduced. Australia is a world leader in tobacco control, based on its longstanding commitment to effective policies, and prevalence rates are declining rapidly. Globally, however, 30% of men and 6% of women still smoke. Further, projections suggest the internationally agreed target of a 30% reduction in smoking rates (base year: 2010) by 2025, established as part of the World Health Organization’s global non-communicable disease action plan, will not be achieved.1

Tobacco is a uniquely harmful product; two out of three smokers’ deaths result from their tobacco use, with a loss of an average 10 years of life.2 In the decade since the landmark WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)3 was adopted, around 50 million people, mostly men living in poorer countries, have died from using tobacco, and Big Tobacco continues to be very profitable.

The FCTC is a major advance in global tobacco control, although most countries have yet to meet their obligations under the convention. Most need to speed up the implementation of key components of the treaty: increased taxation, complete bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and guarantees…