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Thanks to the conclusions of the World Health Organization’s global tobacco treaty negotiations, several public healthcare policies have been put in place for the future.

180 governments participated in the historic event, representing 90% of the world’s population. The policies included in the new legislation will hold tobacco companies liable for the effects of their products, as well as create easier access for victims of tobacco-related conditions.

The agreement expanded coverage of Article 19 in the global tobacco treaty which will allow international and national governments to sue the industry and win back millions of dollars in health care costs associated with tobacco use. It will also pave the way for citizens’ ability to pursue legal liability against companies in violation of public health.

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“For years, the tobacco industry has attempted to intimidate countries with threats of legal suits for their public health laws,” said Hellen Neima, tobacco control advocate from Uganda. “At these negotiations, governments set the stage for the kinds of legal challenges that have the potential to shift the cost-benefit ratio for the tobacco industry in the years to come.”

“The tobacco epidemic is the leading preventable cause of death. It kills nearly six million people per year, of whom more than five million are users or ex-users and more than 600,000 are nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke,” reads the WHO website. “If current smoking patterns continue, the annual death toll will increase to eight million by 2030, with more than 80% of the deaths taking place in low- and middle-income countries. Tobacco kills many people at the height of their productivity, depriving families of breadwinners and nations of a healthy workforce.”

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) came into effect in 2005 – it has been projected that with a progressive 50% reduction in uptake and consumption rates, as many as 200 million lives could be saved by the year 2050 ― and hundreds of millions more thereafter.

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