ending adult smoking is key to the attainment of several sustainable development goals

Progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to noncommunicable diseases requires concerted action to end adult smoking. The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (hereafter, referred to as “the Foundation”) is ready to accelerate work to improve global health by ending smoking in this generation.

The Foundation believes that the SDGs provide a thoughtful and robust framework to improve our world. As a result, we have reflected on the SDGs to ensure that our work is carried out in concert with other members of the international development community and contributes toward the brighter future envisioned by the United Nations. To do so, we conducted a detailed review of each of our principal strategies – Health, Science, and Technology (HST), Agriculture and Livelihoods (AG-L), and Industry Transformation (IT) – and mapped how they intersect with the SDGs. The Foundation operationalizes gender principles such that gender-specific impact and sex-specific data are integrated within its initiatives in accordance with SDG 5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

The most pertinent SDG to our work at the Foundation is SDG 3: “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” This goal is buttressed by underlying targets that specifically promote the implementation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (Target 3.a) as measured by the prevalence of current tobacco use (Indicator 3.a.1); reduction of premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases (Target 3.4) as measured by the prevalence of several smoking-related diseases (Indicator 3.4.1); and strengthening of research capacity particularly in developing countries (Target 3.d). Such targets are vital given that there are still more than one billion smokers in the world and approximately seven million deaths attributable to smoking each year. With the aim of dramatically curbing these numbers and promoting SDG 3 in mind, the Foundation’s preliminary HST agenda seeks to stimulate research, promote innovation, and support collaboration focused on smoking cessation and tobacco-related harm reduction.

Moreover, the Foundation’s HST agenda seeks to do so in keeping with SDG 17: “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development” – as measured by targets and indicators assessing resources and capacity for research in developing countries. Coupled with the fact that an increasing number of smokers are concentrated in low- and middle-income countries, our HST agenda places a special emphasis on programs to build the research infrastructure and pipeline of such countries.

As the Foundation makes progress toward its vision of a smoke-free world, the demand for tobacco will continue to decline. The focus of the AG-L strategy is to mitigate the effects of this fallout for farmers and tobacco-dependent economies, such as Malawi. SDG 2 and SDG 8: “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” and “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all,” respectively, closely dovetail with this work. These goals are tied to underlying targets and indicators such as the average income of small-scale food producers (Indicator 2.3.2), prevalence of malnutrition (Indicator 2.2.2), and the flow of development assistance to the agriculture sector and aid-for-trade support (Indicator 2.a.2). The work of our AG-L strategy is predicated on the understanding that tobacco farming, especially for smallholder tobacco farmers, is far from sustainable economically or environmentally. With this consideration in mind, the Foundation seeks to identify, promote, and scale alternative, better-paying, and more sustainable livelihoods to smallholder tobacco farmers and workers.

Our work at the Foundation is also informed by SDG 9: “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.” Technological disruption is well underway in the tobacco industry and nicotine ecosystem. Therefore, we believe now is the right time to enhance scientific research and upgrade the technological capabilities, particularly in developing countries (Target 9.5), as unprecedented and innovative technologies are reducing health risks associated with nicotine delivery compared with those of emissions found only in combustible cigarettes. The Foundation envisions using a market-driven approach to incentivize sustainable change toward a smoke-free world and to meet consumer demand for reduced-harm nicotine delivery products worldwide. We will do so in part through the Tobacco Transformation Index, by creating a direct relationship between a company’s transformation and shareholder value while quantifying transformation through clear and transparent metrics. In our view, the current state of smoking worldwide demonstrates that the emphasis placed by many in public health on WHO FCTC Article 5.3, and the interpretation thereof, is not contributing to achieving a smoke-free world fast enough. The Foundation believes that the appropriate way to influence industry toward transformation is indirectly through partnerships – again, compatible with SDG 17: “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.”

Other organizations are actively evaluating progress toward the SDGs, generally, and against noncommunicable diseases, specifically, and we look forward to doing our part. We invite you to join with us, dive deeper, and learn more about our SDG mapping here.

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