EU Commissioner Stella Kyriakides opened the 2023 Cancer Conference on Eradicating Inequalities in Cancer care by recalling that cancer is a top priority for the EU, encouraging all citizens to join forces and highlighting the importance of fair access to cancer care. This conference marks the fourth year since Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan has united our community, offering hope and strength to overcome cancer inequalitites across the EU.
The improvements in social conditions, health developments, and provisions in Europe have led to an increase in the life expectancy of its population. However, data shows that cancer remains a serious threat affecting the lives of Europeans. Today, Europe accounts for a tenth of the world’s population, but a quarter of the world’s cancer cases severely impacts not only the life of the ones affected but also their families and puts major pressure on the Member States’ health and social systems and economies.
It is well-documented that tobacco use is strongly associated with a number of malignancies. There are over 60 carcinogens in tobacco smoke that lead to the development of lung cancer, and at least 16 other types of cancer. Tobacco consumption continues to be the leading cause of preventable cancer, with 27% of all cancers attributed to tobacco use. By eliminating tobacco use, nine out of every ten cases of lung cancer could be avoided. The latest data also shows that especially in the younger age groups of adults affected by cancer, lung cancer is one of the leading forms (first in men, second in women after breast cancer).
It is equally important to mention that current or past smokers with cancer also have decreased therapeutic response, increased cancer recurrence, and increased cancer treatment complications, including problems with wound healing, infections, cardiovascular complications, and the development of a secondary malignancy. Cancer screening and/or diagnosis especially for the lung is a “teachable moment”, to present patients with the evidence that smoking causes adverse cancer treatment outcomes and help them realize that they can help to improve the effectiveness of their cancer treatment/overall health by accepting to receive support from evidence-based smoking cessation support programs.
Unless we take decisive action, lives lost to cancer in the EU are set to increase by more than 24% by 2035. As stated in Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan: “ Europe urgently needs a renewed and effective commitment to cancer prevention, treatment, and care that identifies the growing challenges, and creates opportunities to overcome them, including the developments in cancer care”. Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan and Mission on Cancer are the EU’s response to jointly work to improve the lives of Europeans through Prevention, Early Detection, Treatment, and Quality of Life for cancer patients and their families.
Achieving a Tobacco-Free Europe is one of the main priorities of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan as described in the “Saving lives through sustainable cancer prevention” pillar. The European Commission is determined to put forward and support actions to achieve a “Tobacco-Free Generation” where less than 5% of the population uses tobacco by 2040” and reduce the burden of tobacco-induced diseases including cancer. This will be achieved through the rigorous enforcement/revisions of the EU tobacco control legislation and its adaptation to new developments and market trends, including stricter rules on novel products which are expected this year.
Aligned with the European Commission’s priorities, the European Citizens’ Initiative “Tobacco-Free Environment and the First European Tobacco-Free Generation by 2030” led by Nofumadores.org and ENSP, was launched on the 26th of January 2023, as a form of citizen involvement in the European policy-making.
The ECI-TFE calls for a better world, better health, and better environments free from the dangers of tobacco use. It was accepted by the European Commission last year and in order to move forward with the recommendations proposed by this initiative, 1 million statements of support must be collected within 1 year, and reach the specific threshold in at least 7 different Member States.
The recommendations are the following:
Once the initiative reaches 1 million validated signatures, the European Commission is obliged to respond and take action.
Who can sign? Any EU citizen old enough to vote in the European Parliament elections.
Prevention is better than cure and the next generations’ health is in our hands! Be active!
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