Partners in the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use met in New York to kick off the new phase of this global public health initiative, and to strategise next steps for reducing tobacco use in low- and middle-income countries with the largest populations of smokers. Increasing tobacco tax and protecting policymaking from tobacco industry interference were set as top priorities for the next six years of the Bloomberg Initiative [BI].
To date BI has helped establish 100 percent smoke-free public places in 35 countries, bans on tobacco advertising promotion and sponsorship in 29 countries, increased tobacco taxes in 17 countries and graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging in 31 countries. Over the last decade BI has changed the trajectory of the tobacco epidemic by supporting the introduction and implementation of these policies proven to reduce tobacco use. The partnership now focuses on ten priority countries: China, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil and Ukraine.
"If we keep this up, by 2030 we will be able to say we have saved over 100 million lives. Together we can really make it happen," said Michael R. Bloomberg. "Right now more than six million people die each year from tobacco use. Every single one of those deaths is preventable."
Core evidence-based tobacco control interventions will remain central to the BI strategy for 2017 – 2022. During the two-day meeting, 22 – 23 February, plans were made for new priority efforts – aggressively holding the tobacco industry to account; a global communications push to keep tobacco control on the public agenda; long-term funding and sustainability planning; deepening support for tobacco taxes; heightened focus on China and India as the largest populations of tobacco users.
Members of The Union’s tobacco control team presented on its work as a lead partner in the BI grants programme – both achievements of the last ten years and future plans for providing technical support to governments and civil society. The Index of Tobacco Control Sustainability was also presented as a tool for countries to assess and guide their national tobacco control programmes to become sustainable.
The University of Illinois at Chicago [UIC] joined the partnership as an expert team specifically to support tobacco tax policy development. UIC joins the original partner organisations: The Union, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Johns Hopkins University and Vital Strategies [formerly World Lung Foundation].