Saturday, 24 September 2011

Judith Mackay, non-communicable diseases and the Endgame on tobacco

I'm all for prioritising non-communicable diseases, provided the communicable diseases are under control, of course. Dementia has a good case for prioritization. However the UN summit on non-communicable diseases appears to focus on lifestyle factors, encouraging a much more regulated environment for food, drinks and tobacco what Judith Mackay describes in the interview in this story as the 'big four'.

Interesting points:

1. Mackay feels that taxation is the answer on smoking cessation, rating it more highly than public education or a specific purchasing age.
2. She seems to take it for granted that getting rid of smoking would inevitably result in improved health (not taking into account the possibility that people might acquire other harmful habits like another drug or excessive eating). In other words, that 'tobacco causes health inequalities'. I feel that blaming the tobacco industry for deaths from tobacco consumption (which she compares with blaming the mosquito for malaria) is wide of the mark. Even if it were demonstrated that none of the supposed tobacco-related deaths cited by the World Health Organisation were caused by other factors, the tobacco industry does not create the demand, so much as supply it. Trying to starve the market by inflationary tax increases is unlikely to drive everybody to healthier living, especially as worsening economic conditions drive the world's population into lives of increasing uncertainty.
3. Mackay also has no qualms about preserving public health policy from the influence of industry, or any doubts about the legitimacy of international, unelected authority such as the World Bank.

She introduces the Endgame – a concept of reducing the rate of smokers to 5 per cent globally. There is a New Zealand study on this – New Zealand being one of the first and only countries to announce a target date for the endgame (2025). You can download the study from the link.

You can see further explanation of the tobacco control movement and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control here (recorded in 2010):

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