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Why a UN Financing Conference Should Matter to You

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Last Wednesday, July 15th, world leaders at the United Nations Financing For Development conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia agreed that "price and tax measures on tobacco can be an effective and important means to reduce tobacco consumption and health care costs, and represent a revenue stream for financing for development in many countries." They also agreed that countries should strengthen implementation of the World Health Organization's legally-binding tobacco treaty (the FCTC) and support mechanisms to raise awareness of it and to mobilize resources for its implementation.

So what does that mean?

Governments, through this United Nations process, are now formally recommending that all governments raise taxes on tobacco products as a way to fund their life-enhancing development initiatives, particularly their efforts to meet the UN's new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will replace the expiring Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2016.

This UN decision is a huge win for public health, global development practitioners, and everyone who will benefit from the SDGs. And that means all of us. While the MDGs were meant to help developing countries, the SDGs will hold developed nations to an even higher standard, meaning no nation is exempt from implementing and financing these new goals.

The World Health Organization and public health groups agree: Increasing taxes on tobacco products is one of the most effective -- and cost-effective -- ways to decrease tobacco consumption and save lives. Decreasing tobacco consumption also translates into fewer tobacco-related diseases, lower health care costs, and more money available for other development causes like food, shelter, and education. 2015-07-22-1437588800-4006030-1.png

It's important for us to remember that one person dies every six seconds from a tobacco-related disease. That's 10 people dying per minute from entirely preventable diseases. With more and more smoke-free ordinances being implemented around the world, we must not adopt an out-of-sight-out-of-mind approach to the tobacco epidemic.

Raising taxes on tobacco products in every country will help discourage new people from picking up the addiction and will help those suffering from addiction to turn away from it. Tobacco taxes will save millions of lives.

This crucial UN financing document and the final version of the new SDGs will be officially adopted this September. The global community must remain united behind the current versions of both documents and must stand with health this year and for years to come.