The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a United Nations initiative, formally adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2015 in a resolution entitled Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Reducing tobacco use plays a major role in global efforts to achieve the SDG target to reduce premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) by one third by 2030. Many of the 17 Goals have a direct or indirect relation to tobacco.
Tobacco harm reduction can accelerate the achievement of some of the SDGs. The most immediately relevant are the following.
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
Goal 12: Ensure sustainable production and consumption patterns.
Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Vaping products are playing a huge role in achieving SDG 13. We all know that cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world. Over 4.5 trillion cigarettes are littered worldwide each year. Smoking is costly to our environment. Littered cigarette butts leach toxic chemicals into the environment and can contaminate water. The toxic exposure can poison fish, as well as animals who eat cigarette butts. The plastic fibers in cigarettes are non-biodegradable, meaning they won’t organically break down from living organisms. Once vaping products phase out traditional cigarettes we will see a welcomed improvement of the climate.
Since E cigarettes are an aid in smoking cessation, harm reduction can help in achieving SDG 3. If by 2030, we are to “reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment”, tobacco harm reduction should definitely be on the agenda. Tobacco related diseases are responsible for killing up to 7 million people every year. With harm reduction products like e-cigarettes being at least 95% safer than cigarettes, they should be encouraged.
As for SDG 12, since a major reduction in tobacco growing is in the making due to less demand, we should be able to support developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacities to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production.
Negative impacts of tobacco result from human consumption and from tobacco-growing activities, most of which now occur in low- and middle-income countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, worldwide, over 1 billion people smoke and over 7 million die each year from tobacco-related causes. Most tobacco users live in low- or middle-income countries. Tobacco production, which now mostly occurs in low- and middle-income countries, has negative effects that extend beyond those on health, to economic problems and environmental degradation.
A multi-pronged approach to tobacco harm reduction in the low-and middle-income countries of sub-Saharan Africa, that incorporates both tobacco consumption and production, is needed. Harm reduction has multiple benefits for the smoker,non smoker, economy and environment as well.