On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Unfairtobacco is joined by 23 organisations working on public health, sustainable development and tobacco control is publishing its new brochure Women’s Rights and Tobacco Control. The study gathers several authors’ contributions shining a light on the links between tobacco, its cultivation and use, the enforcement of women’s rights and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

One billion people worldwide use tobacco, and more than eight million people die from it every year, about 1.2 million of them due to exposure to secondhand smoke. More women than men die as a result of passive smoking. Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of premature death from non-communicable diseases and the female body is more sensitive to its adverse health effects. Thus, women’s right to health is violated.

At the same time, more than 17 million people worldwide work in tobacco cultivation, mainly in low- and middle-income countries with low labour standards. But smallholder farmers find it difficult to earn a living from growing tobacco – irreconcilable with SDGs 1 and 2 (End Poverty and Hunger). In addition, labour-intensive tobacco cultivation places a high health burden on women: they are exposed to serious health hazards, often during pregnancy – irreconcilable with SDG 3 (Health for all) and women’s right to health.

The brochure highlights these links between women’s rights, Sustainable Development Goals and tobacco control in different policy areas. Experts from various fields deal with issues ranging from tobacco cultivation and marketing to health consequences and socio-economic inequalities.

The Sustainable Development Goals include the accelerated implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) while the UN Women’s Rights Convention is at the base of both instruments. It enshrines the right to health and preventive care as well as the right to occupational safety and health.

In all measures to reduce tobacco use and combat exploitation in the tobacco sector, it is important to keep women’s rights fully in mind. Women and girls worldwide have a right to a tobacco-free world where tobacco use has been reduced to meaningless levels and the tobacco industry is highly regulated.

Jurisdictions all over the world are lagging behind in tobacco control. For example: Germany. More than 15 years after the ratification of the FCTC, the country still has no comprehensive tobacco control policy. More than 50 civil society organisations therefore submitted a strategy paper aiming a tobacco-free Germany in 2040. In the concluding chapter, the brochure provides recommendations to governments on how to enforce tobacco control and thereby contribute to the achievement of the SDGs as well as to the enforcement of women’s rights.

Supporting organisations

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) | Ärztlicher Arbeitskreis Rauchen und Gesundheit (ÄARG) | Deutsche Allianz Nichtübertragbare Krankheiten (DANK) | Deutsche Gesellschaft für Pneumologie und Beatmungsmedizin (DGP) | German Center for Addiction (DHS) | Deutsche Krebshilfe | German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) | European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention (ENSP) | Fachstelle für Suchtprävention Berlin gGmbH | Women Against Tobacco (FACT) | Friedensband | Health Care Plus | Institute for Therapy and Health Research (IFT-Nord) | Nationales Netzwerk Frauen und Gesundheit | Netzwerk Frauen/Mädchen und Gesundheit Niedersachsen | Netzwerk Frauengesundheit Berlin | Nichtraucherschutzverband Deutschland | Rauchfrei Plus – Gesundheitseinrichtungen für Beratung und Tabakentwöhnung | Smokefree Partnership (SFP) | Tobacco-Free Association Zambia (TOFAZA) | UBINIG | Vivantes Netzwerk für Gesundheit | VIVID – Institute for the Prevention of Addiction, Austria

The regulation of the tobacco industry is not a voluntary matter of companies, but a duty of governments.
Brochure "Women's Rights and Tobacco Controle: The right to a tobacco-free world" © brochure_womens_rights_cover by Unfairtobacco / CC BY-NC-ND 4.0