Tobacco control

Tobacco burden

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 leukemia. Quitting at any age can make an immense difference for the user, increasing life expectancy and improving the quality of life. 


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

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.

Tobacco use burdens the global economy with an estimated US$ 1.4 trillion in healthcare costs and lost productivity each year. 


What is tobacco control?

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).

No smoking and no vaping sign


 “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.


More information on Tobacco Control
Logos of The Tobacco Control Unit of the Catalan Institute of Oncology and the Samoa Cancer Society; headshots of Dr Tania Cavalcante of the National Cancer Institute in Brazil, and UICC former President HRH Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, recipients of World No Tobacco Day Awards
22 June 2021

UICC members and Past President recognised for their work in tobacco control

UICC Past President HRH Princess Dina Mired of Jordan and Dr Tania Cavalcante of INCA, Brazil, as well as two UICC member organisations from Samoa and Spain were among the recipients of WHO’s World No Tobacco Day Awards 2021.

Pile of cut tobacco with cigarettes on dollar bills.
28 May 2021

More funding needed for tobacco control to reduce cancer incidence

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of cancer today. While the regulatory tools exist to reduce it consumption, there are significant financial hurdles to overcome to see effective measures implemented.

Cigarette end burning with ash forming a dollar sign, emphasising the huge profits generated by the tobacco industry and the heavy influence they use to undermine policy changes and more effective tobacco regulation
21 May 2021

Aligning efforts for effective tobacco control

Tobacco control is essential to reducing cancer incidence. The first UICC Virtual Dialogue on the topic held on 12th May provided valuable insight into how to unite the efforts of the cancer and tobacco control communities to implement effective regulation.

Hand of African man holding a cigarette, emphasising the need for tobacco control
19 May 2021

Proven tobacco control tools are key to a healthy recovery

As the tobacco industry renews efforts to exert influence, Hayley Jones of the McCabe Centre for Law & Cancer emphasises the use of legal and regulatory tools such as the FCTC to fight the tobacco epidemic.

Middle Eastern man smoking a hookah
11 May 2021

Ramadan is an ideal time to quit tobacco

UICC invited Dr Hadi Mohamad Abu Rasheed of the Qatar Cancer Society to share his view on the impact of Ramadan on the cessation of tobacco use in the Muslim community.

Broken cigarette resting on ashtray to symbolise smoking as a risk factor for many diseases including cancer and the benefits of quitting
29 April 2021

Efficient tobacco control reduces cancer mortality

Effective cancer control includes addressing the risk factors such as tobacco use. UICC fully supports and works with its members to implement the requirements and guidelines of the WHO international treaty on tobacco control.

Last update: 
Friday 28 May 2021