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Congratulations to CDC on 20 years of global tobacco surveillance

By Dr. Jennifer Ellis, Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Health team

We’re celebrating an important milestone in global tobacco control: the 20th anniversary of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Global Tobacco Surveillance System. Bloomberg Philanthropies has been proud to partner with CDC on the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use through CDC Foundation since 2007, when we first launched the initiative. Tobacco kills eight million people a year worldwide, with most of those deaths in low- and middle-income countries. CDC supports countries in monitoring this deadly epidemic by increasing countries’ technical and data collection capacities.  As a result, countries can monitor not only their tobacco use, but also other key health outcomes (like exposure to tobacco smoke and tobacco advertising) that demonstrate where more progress is needed.

Results published by the CDC show an incredible reduction of more than 20 million fewer smokers and a reduction of more than 50 million people who are exposed to secondhand smoke. One of the main components of the Global Tobacco Surveillance System is the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), a gold-standard household survey of adults in low- and middle-income countries that provides national estimates of tobacco use and behaviors.  So far, 11 countries have completed the GATS survey twice, providing essential data to show how much progress has been made against the tobacco epidemic.  The first surveys took place in each country in 2008, 2009, or 2010, and were followed up with a second survey an average of 6 years later.

Other indicators on tobacco-related measures show more good news. In addition to showing that 55 million fewer people in these 11 countries are now exposed to secondhand smoke, results also show that nearly 100 million fewer people have been exposed to tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorship.  And 12 million additional people have considered quitting because of pack warnings on tobacco products.

The work that CDC and CDC Foundation have done, especially to support the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, has fundamentally impacted our work at Bloomberg Philanthropies and demonstrated the power of data to improve public health. We congratulate CDC and all of the countries participating in the Global Tobacco Surveillance System on their progress in countering the tobacco epidemic.