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The Union’s Department of Tobacco Control is developing a new step-by-step guide for governments tackling the rising pandemic of non-communicable diseases [NCDs], including cancers, chronic lung diseases, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

With 80% of premature deaths caused by these diseases now in low- and middle-income countries, governments and health systems are struggling to develop plans that meet the voluntary targets set out in the World Health Organization’s [WHO] NCD Global Monitoring Framework.

The Union guide will focus on the four modifiable lifestyle risk factors common to all NCDs, and it will draw on experience and resources developed over a decade working to prevent the key NCD risk factor: tobacco use, which alone kills nearly six million people each year.

‘NCDs are a development issue, not just a health issue,’ said Dr Ehsan Latif, Director of the Department of Tobacco Control. ‘As such, plans for managing them require addressing the issue on multiple fronts, including legislation, taxation, enforcement, trade agreements. These are all areas where the progress of tobacco control has demonstrated successful approaches over the past 10 years’.

Parallels between efforts to control tobacco use, and addressing other risk factors such as obesity and harmful alcohol use, include: industry interference in policy-making; advertising promotion and sponsorship; taxation; arguments about individual choice and rights.

Tobacco control policies have been developed over a decade of collaboration between experts around the globe. They are backed by the only legally binding international health treaty, the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [WHO FCTC]. By comparison, work to combat NCDs is being driven by voluntary targets, as set out in WHO’s NCD Global Monitoring Framework.

‘NCDs are already the leading cause of death in the world, and the pandemic is increasing rapidly. Prevention must become a new priority for governments,’ said Dr Latif. ‘Using tobacco control policy as a basis will enable the health community and governments to work together and move more swiftly than if working from scratch and in relative isolation.’

The guide will draw on a discussion paper published by The Union in spring 2015. It highlights that although an integrated approach to all risk factors is desirable, there is concern that the current rigorous approach to tobacco control might be watered down if subsumed into NCD departments required only to meet voluntary targets.

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