GLOBAL HEALTH STALWARTS JOIN HANDS TO CALL FOR A TOBACCO FREE WORLD
With support from the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, Minister of Health, Sh. Ghulam Nabi Azad and Director General of WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan inaugurated the “International Conference on Public Health Priorities in the 21st Century: The Endgame for Tobacco”.
New Delhi, September 11, 2013: The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, together with Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth (HRIDAY) today inaugurated the“International Conference on Public Health Priorities in the 21st Century: The Endgame for Tobacco” in the presence of Hon'ble Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union Minister Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General, World Health Organization (WHO) and over 500 participants from more than 55 countries. A first of its kind in India, the international conference will focus on developing multi-sectoral partnerships and taking tobacco control beyond health sector, integrating it with the global development goals and appropriate treatment under trade agreements and treaties.
Though a recorded video message, Dr. Manmohan Singh, Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, in his address to the conference delegates highlighted that “Tobacco control calls for a combination of political and public health action to drive down both demand and supply of tobacco. India is a party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) hence is firmly committed to the vision of a tobacco free society. As we act with conviction and commitment to eliminate tobacco as a threat to human health, I am sure this conference will contribute substantially to developing implementable and impactful strategies for stamping out tobacco as a danger to our collective future.”
India’s Health Minister Mr.Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was the Chief Guest at the Endgame Conference 2013, said, “India has the highest number of smokeless tobacco users in the world. India’s recent ban on Gutkha in 33 of the 35 states and union territories is a definite step towards achieving tobacco endgame. The Government of India is working towards integrating the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke (NPCDCS) with the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP). India is keenly observing global developments such as plain packaging of tobacco products adopted by Australia and the policy debates on tobacco free future generations and endgame objectives adopted by Finland. India shall do whatever it can to partner WHO and international community to precipitate the endgame and secure a healthy and disease free future for the global youth. I am sure that with former cricket captain of India, Rahul Dravid, agreeing to be Health Ministry’s Ambassador for tobacco control, we will be able to catch the attention of a large number of sport loving people.”
Delivering her keynote address to delegates from over 55 countries at the inaugural of the first ‘International Conference on Public Health Priorities in the 21st Century: The Endgame For Tobacco’ in New Delhi, the WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan, said, “In 41 countries that adopted at least one highest-level MPOWER measure, the estimated number of smokers dropped by 14.8 million, averting a total of 7.4 million smoking-attributable deaths. Endgame strategies threaten the very existence of the tobacco industry – they deserve it. However, in your implementation of a tobacco endgame, expect a well-orchestrated, well-funded and aggressive resistance every step along the way. Industry will challenge the science, distort the findings, or fund its own studies with a predictable bias. Tobacco control requires cooperation from multiple sectors of government, from trade, finance, agriculture, education, law enforcement, and the judicial system. Full implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control would deal the greatest single preventive blow to non-communicable diseases.”
More than 130 speakers from over 30 countries came together for the two day conference to deliberate on and find a way forward for cohesive policy environment combined with evidence-based community action to promote public health by reducing current tobacco use prevalence and set global and country-wise targets to protect present and future generations from the harms of tobacco use.
Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India and President, World Heart Federation elaborated on the urgent need to mobilize tobacco control measures globally. Speaking at the inaugural ceremony as the conference President, Dr. Reddy said, “If unchecked, the death toll due to tobacco abuse could claim over a billion lives in the 21st century globally. Although successes in tobacco control efforts have been regionally skewed, there are a number of positive developments and initiatives in the overall global tobacco control movement that can be replicated as best practices. This Conference will also call for resolution to fight tobacco post the 2015 UN sustainable development agenda.”
As a prelude to the Endgame Conference the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, had recently announced former India cricket team captain Rahul Dravid as the global brand Ambassador for the National Tobacco Control campaign.
Another highlight of the first day of the conference was the poster presentations by 76 experts from countries like Nigeria, Uganda, Jamaica, India, US, Bolivia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Nepal, Ukraine, Egypt, China, Finland, Australia, Argentina, Turkey and Thailand. The themes presented ranged from issues pertaining to the socio-cultural perception of cigarette smokers in Nigeria, socio-economic inequity in tobacco prevalence in India, trend of tobacco use among pregnant women in Nepal, tool for effective tobacco control campaign and tobacco cultivation and poverty among many more.
With the World Health Assembly (WHA) adopting a target of 30% relative reduction in tobacco use prevalence by 2025, the global narrative on tobacco control is increasingly exploring the concept of tobacco endgame, which envisions reducing tobacco prevalence and availability to minimal levels. The recent gutka ban imposed by India (in 27 states and Union Territories) can be considered as India's big step towards tobacco endgame.
The conference will provide a platform not only for knowledge transfer and information sharing, but agenda setting for future pathways of the global tobacco control movement to put an end to tobacco. The conference will also present an opportunity for development and public health professionals, law enforcers, advocates, researchers, economists, environmentalists, social scientists, policy makers, and other identified stakeholders, especially from LMICs, to present scientific evidence and share experience, innovations and ideas for moving towards endgame solutions.