COVID-19 Impacts on Global Tobacco Control Efforts: Slowing Progress

Analysis from the Global Tobacco Control Progress Hub revealed that global progress in policies to reduce tobacco use has slowed for the first time in 12 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The collaboration between the non-profit Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Canada and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health tracks the implementation of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a global treaty aimed at reducing smoking.

Between 2020 and 2022, there was a slowdown in the implementation of six core, high-impact measures of the treaty, including tax increases, advertising and promotion bans, and rules prohibiting smoking in public places. Les Hagen, executive director of ASH Canada, emphasized the concerning nature of this slowdown and called on nations to intensify their efforts. The hub’s analysis, based on countries’ self-reporting to the WHO, revealed that two thirds of countries reported either no improvement or a decline in the implementation of key tobacco policies.

The report highlighted that the biggest declines were observed in low-income countries, particularly in the eastern Mediterranean and south east Asian regions. The slowdown in implementing key tobacco policies could have dire consequences, potentially leading to millions of people worldwide continuing to smoke. These policies have been shown to reduce smoking rates, and the World Health Organization states that tobacco kills up to half of its users who do not quit.

A separate report from STOP and the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control also found a deterioration in governments’ implementation of another aspect of the WHO treaty aimed at preventing tobacco industry interference in policy. It’s evident that the COVID-19 pandemic has had significant implications for global tobacco control measures, and urgent action is necessary to address this concerning trend.


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