Controlling tobacco use is vital to managing the threat it poses to public health, but doing so requires a multipronged approach that includes public advocacy, public health efforts, and reform, according to a press briefing at the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) 17th Annual World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC) in Austria.1

Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, MD, PhD, the Head of Secretariat of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, provided a global perspective on initiatives to counter efforts by tobacco companies to lobby for trade treaties that negatively impact public health.

“This is not an easy job,” said Dr da Costa e Silva. “It needs political will; it needs commitments from governments, civil society, and organizations.” International gatherings of specialists like the WCLC can contribute to prevention strategies, she said.

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Discussing new treatments and avenues to provide relief to patients with lung cancer offers some promise, but it is also important to focus on preventative strategies.

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the United Nations’ tobacco control treaty, now includes 180 parties. Dr da Costa e Silva said that negotiation and adoption of the treaty represented a major step forward in controlling tobacco use.

“The treaty is moving forward very quickly, but the tobacco industry is a major obstacle,” she said. “The tobacco industry is omnipresent, and trying to influence governments to avoid the adoption of tobacco control measures.”
She said the industry uses front groups to advance its agenda. “We have to look into [preventing] interference from the tobacco industry,” she said, “not only in the government sector, but also in universities not receiving funds from the tobacco industry, not accepting funds from the tobacco industry to support research.”

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“I hope that soon every country in the world is free of tobacco smoke,” she said. “We have to provide society with all the elements to prevent future generations from dying of lung cancer.” 


  1. Da Costa e Silva V. Framework convention on tobacco control: its impact on global health. Press briefing at: International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer 17th World Conference on Lung Cancer; December 2016; Vienna, Austria.