Tobacco control

Tobacco burden


The side effects of nicotine on the body - diagram by Mikael Häggström  (click to view larger)

Tobacco kills 8 million people worldwide each year, mainly in low- and middle-income countries where 80% of the world’s smokers live. However, not only smokers are at risk, second-hand smoking causes 1.2 million deaths per year. Tobacco use is a leading cause of multiple cancers such as oral cancers, lung, liver, stomach, bowel and ovarian cancers, as well as some types of leukaemia. Quitting at any age can make an immense difference for the user, increasing life expectancy and improving the quality of life. 

In addition, tobacco has a negative impact on economies due to illicit trade, climate change and pollution; and is linked to human rights abuses and child labour.


What is tobacco control?

No smoking and no vaping sign

Tobacco control aims at reducing the use of tobacco and the serious health risks and mortality it causes through policies, laws and education. It has long been a priority of UICC’s advocacy efforts in collaboration with members and partners. Tobacco control is also one of the 16 essential health services monitored by the World Health Organization (WHO) to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC).


 “It is essential for the promotion of better health as part of UHC that people understand the risk of smoking and tobacco use. Governments and policy makers have a clear responsibility to protect them from harm caused by tobacco.” 
– Sonali Johnson, Head of Knowledge, Advocacy and Policy, Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)

Regulations and policies

COP8 delegates_credit WHOFCTC P.Virot

Credit: WHO FCTC/P.Virot

In order to stop the global tobacco epidemic, an international treaty entered into force in 2005: the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).  WHO defines it as “an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health. There are currently 180 parties to the convention. The treaty deals with topics such as demand-side reduction measures, supply-side reduction measures, protection of the environment, protection from tobacco industry interests, implementation of multi-sectoral tobacco control strategies, nicotine addiction and exposure to second-hand smoke, public awareness, illicit trade and measures such as tax increases or ban advertising.

The role of UICC and its members

UICC and its members help with the implementation of the FCTC by encouraging governments and policy makers to adopt and effectively implement the WHO FCTC treaty and by raising awareness of the risks related to the use of tobacco.

The tobacco industry continues to promote tobacco use with very strong and powerful marketing campaigns targeted particularly at youth populations. It is therefore very important to counter the dissemination of misinformation and to raise awareness about this complex topic encompassing several health and socio-economic domains. This includes education about e-cigarettes and emerging heated tobacco products.

Useful links

More information on Tobacco Control
Changing the tobacco industry's profit story offers a much-needed focus for future tobacco control policy
9 February 2021

Addressing industry profits as part of tobacco control

Dr Rob Branston from the University of Bath in the UK explains how tobacco industry profitability has contributed to the on-going tobacco epidemic and what can be done about it.

The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World is funded by the tobacco industry and employs their marketing tactics to deceive the general public, health experts and policymakers
20 October 2020

UICC issues warning about the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

As the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World increases its outreach to UICC members, it is important to emphasise that this organisation is funded by the tobacco industry and employs similar marketing tactics.

Implementing the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control will not only help countries combat tobacco use, it also will help them advance sustainable development
15 October 2020

Fighting the tobacco epidemic

Dr Adriana Blanco Marquizo took office as the Head of the Convention Secretariat in March 2020 for a four-year term. Here she explains how she envisions the next WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control strategy to fight the tobacco epidemic globally.

Two men working with laptops
30 July 2020

The Tobacco-Free Finance Pledge: a tool for change

Clare Payne shares insights into how the Tobacco-Free Finance pledge is advancing global tobacco control despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Examples of plain packaging
10 June 2020

UICC welcomes the favourable WTO ruling on plain tobacco packaging

The ruling on 9th June 2020 by WTO that Australia’s strict packaging laws do not violate international trade agreements should encourage more countries to implement similar laws and thus reduce tobacco use globally.

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29 May 2020

Using Big Tobacco’s Playbook to hook a new generation

For this year’s World No Tobacco Day, Michél Legendre, Associate Campaign Director at Corporate Accountability, shares his reflections on how the tobacco industry drives youth addiction and maximises profits by using long-held tactics with a new generation of products for a new generation of consumers.

Last update: 
Thursday 25 February 2021