As a result of the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 18th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) is now postponed.
To ensure that global collaboration and knowledge sharing continues in the meantime, the WCTOH will host a virtual, two-day Leadership Summit on Tobacco Control.
The COVID-19 pandemic now poses a deadly new threat to the world’s 1.3 billion smokers, and the low- and middle-income countries whose health systems are already burdened by tobacco-related disease.
Evidence is showing that smokers are more likely to be infected by COVID-19, and are more likely to experience a more severe or deadly form of the virus. People with pre-existing non-communicable diseases, for which tobacco use is a leading risk factor – are also more vulnerable.
It has therefore never been more important to remain focused on our goal to implement the evidence-based policies set out in the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and end the tobacco epidemic.
The 18th WCTOH will partly focus on the emergence of new nicotine and tobacco products like e-cigarettes. The tobacco industry is re-branding itself as part of the solution to the tobacco epidemic – yet it continues to aggressively market its traditional products in lower- and middle-income countries, where 80% of tobacco-caused deaths occur.
As we navigate the COVID-19 crisis, strong leadership and global collaboration will be critical in preventing the tobacco industry from derailing strong tobacco control policies which are proven to protect people from the harms of smoking.
We look forward to seeing you at the 18th WCTOH.
Prof Guy Marks, President of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union)
Dr Harry Lando is a senior TC academic and Chair of the WCTOH Organising Committee.
Fenton Howell, Director of Public Health at Health Service Executive
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