Increase in tobacco-related cancer deaths confirms governments must act urgently to reduce tobacco use
4 February, 2020 Atlanta: The Prevent20 coalition of cancer organizations today issued the following statement on new data released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and World Health Organization (WHO), which show that tobacco-related cancers now account for 25 percent of all cancer deaths globally. Speaking on behalf of the coalition, Jacqui Drope, Managing Director, Global Cancer Prevention, American Cancer Society said:
“These new data included in reports from IARC and WHO are hugely disappointing, but unsurprising. Increases in tobacco-related cancer follow the trajectory of global increases in tobacco use in previous decades. The epidemic of tobacco-related cancer deaths that started in countries like the USA now is spreading its deadly reach in low-and middle-income countries across the world.”
Governments have been too slow to implement and enforce proven policies to reduce tobacco use that would lead to reductions in tobacco-related cancer. Tobacco taxation is the single most effective but least implemented policy to reduce tobacco use, because it discourages youth from starting to use tobacco and encourages current smokers to quit. Prevent20 calls for tobacco taxes to be increased in every country to reduce tobacco use and tobacco-related cancer deaths.
Drope concluded: “When our coalition formed three years ago, 20 percent of cancer deaths were related to tobacco. Now it’s 25 percent. The proportion is almost immaterial: These deaths and the related financial and social harms are preventable; no-one needs to use or die from tobacco. Even one death is one too many. Our mission, therefore, is to Prevent Too Many tobacco-related cancer deaths. We call on all cancer organizations to redouble our commitment to support tobacco taxes as a cancer prevention tool and urge all governments to implement tobacco taxes at the levels recommended by the WHO.”
Tobacco is responsible for more than 8 million of the 40 million NCD-related deaths each year and is the world’s leading risk factor for NCDs and premature death. The Global Burden of Disease collaboration estimates that the number of tobacco-related cancer deaths increased from 1.5 million per year in 1990 to 2.4 million per year in 2017. Globally, 25 percent of all cancer deaths are related to tobacco. Under the Sustainable Development Goals, all countries have committed to reduce preventable premature deaths by one-third by 2030. This target cannot be met without progress in reducing tobacco use. The World Health Organization target of reducing smoking prevalence by 30% by 2025 would result in at least 173 million fewer smokers by 2025 and at least 38 million fewer deaths.
The health harms of tobacco have been clear since the Surgeon General’s report in 1964, but governments were slow to adopt measures to reduce tobacco use. The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was adopted as an international treaty in 2003 and in 2008 WHO launched MPOWER – a set of six cost-effective and high impact measures that help countries reduce demand for tobacco. Increasing tobacco taxes is one of the six measures in MPOWER and a key article of the FCTC.
Increasing taxes on tobacco – ideally as part of a comprehensive package of tobacco control policies – is the single most effective measure to deter youth from starting to use tobacco and encourage current users to quit. While a clear priority for cancer prevention, tobacco taxation remains an underused intervention globally.
Making tobacco less affordable is particularly important for the most vulnerable in society, who statistically are more likely to use tobacco and may be less likely to seek a diagnosis and treatment until it’s too late – a potentially deadly combination.
Notes to Editors
Prevent20 is a global coalition of cancer organizations calling for tobacco taxes to be increased in every country to reduce tobacco use and tobacco-related cancer deaths, which currently account for 25 percent of all global cancer deaths. Members join to provide and to benefit from the coalition’s combined knowledge and expertise, so any cancer organization can become a successful champion for this important health policy. Tobacco is a risk factor for a wide range of cancers, so every cancer organization is encouraged to join the coalition, irrespective of their current level of involvement or knowledge of this issue. Cancer organizations can find out more and join the coalition at wecanprevent20.org.
To find out more, please visit wecanprevent20.org or Twitter @wecanprevent20