Armenia receives special support from the UN to tackle the nation’s tobacco dependence as part of the FCTC 2030 project

July 15, 2020

Joint Press release from the Ministry of Health Armenia, the Convention Secretariat, World Health Organization and the United Nations Development Programme

14 JULY 2020 | YEREVAN - Armenia has been selected as one of nine countries worldwide to receive dedicated international support from the United Nations in Phase II of the FCTC 2030 project, that is led by the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The project aims to accelerate implementation of the WHO FCTC; and it is aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes explicit attention to tobacco control.

In welcoming the project, the Republic of Armenia Minister of Health, H.E. Dr Arsen Torosyan said, “The Government is committed to protecting the health of the Armenian people. We need to stop people from picking up the harmful practice and help those dependent on it quit. Armenia is committed to the WHO FCTC and now has a new law that bans smoking in all public places and bans tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. We need to work together to ensure it is effectively implemented to protect the Armenian people from the harms and impoverishment brought about by the addiction to tobacco.”

The WHO FCTC is the world’s first global health treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO, which today counts 181 countries and the European Union as Parties. It is dedicated to ending the global tobacco epidemic and is a comprehensive blueprint for governments to reduce tobacco use and related harms in their countries.

Tobacco use damages our health and leads to many life-threatening and debilitating diseases including the main noncommunicable diseases such as: cancer, heart and lung diseases and diabetes. In the current situation, it is important to take into account that these conditions put people at higher risk for developing severe illness when affected by COVID-19. Tobacco use is one of the world’s leading causes of early and preventable death.

Tobacco is also a development issue. It causes many social, economic and environmental problems which impede national development. An unhealthy workforce slows down economic growth; medical costs and loss of primary earners burden and impoverish families; and cigarette waste pollutes the environment when toxins leak into the land and water.

Dr Adriana Blanco Marquizo, Head of the Secretariat of the WHO FCTC said, “Armenia has made great progress and demonstrated their commitment, as a Party to the WHO FCTC, implementing comprehensive tobacco control policies in the interest of public health. These are measures proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and related diseases. Through the FCTC 2030 project, Armenia will get dedicated support to strengthen implementation of these key public health measures.” .

Since ratification of the WHO FCTC in 2004, the Government has passed key pieces of legislation that regulate the sale of tobacco products including ban of wholesale and retail sale of chewing tobacco in the Republic of Armenia, that introduces standardized tobacco packaging, and that comprehensively bans advertising, promotion and sponsorship, as well as smoking in public places and transport including in private motor vehicles in the process of movement.

“Despite strong resistance, the Government has adopted a good legal framework to regulate tobacco. We need the collaboration of various sectors to ensure the law is complied with and effectively enforced; to provide tobacco users with the needed support to quit; and to protect people, especially the young, from the influence of tobacco companies,” said Dr Egor Zaitsev, WHO Representative to Armenia.

With the Government of Armenia having expressed a strong commitment to reducing mortality and morbidity from noncommunicable diseases in the development strategy for 2014 to 2025, the UN support on tobacco control is timely. Tobacco control will not only improve life expectancy and quality of life of the Armenian people but will also alleviate the strains on the country’s health system.

Dmitry Mariyasin, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Armenia, added, “UNDP is proud to partner in the FCTC 2030 project. We look forward to supporting Armenia’s efforts in addressing key governance and development aspects of tobacco control. We will lead the development of a national Tobacco Control Investment Case for Armenia, which will calculate the economic cost of tobacco use on Armenian economy, the costs of key recommended FCTC interventions and the returns on those investments, in terms of both lives saved and economic costs averted. UNDP also hopes to help strengthen the structured engagement of critical ‘non-health sectors’ in pursuit of effective enforcement of the new legislation.”

The FCTC 2030 project catalyzes initial country action to achieve the 2030 Agenda’s targets on health and sustainable development broadly. It will run until March 2021 and will bring international support to Armenia from the United Nations, including the Secretariat of the WHO FCTC, UNDP and WHO. The support includes expert advice, technical assistance and peer support to strengthen the Government of Armenia’s programme of work on tobacco control. The Governments of the United Kingdom, Norway and Australia have generously provided funds for the FCTC 2030 project.