Tobacco Use Prevention and Global Health Effectiveness

Globalization of tobacco use represents a serious threat to worldwide public health. It continues to be the leading global cause of premature death and disability. It kills nearly 6 million people worldwide each year, including more than 600 000 non-smokers who die from exposure to tobacco smoke, and causes hundreds of billions of dollars of economic damage worldwide each year. Most of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, and this disparity is expected to widen further over the next several decades. If current trends continue, by 2030, more than 8 million people will die each year (1).


The history of successful public health practice has demonstrated that the effective and coordinated participation of a wide range of community and societal resources must be the basis of sustained solutions to universal problems like tobacco use (2). Although there has been significant progress on tobacco control in many countries, treatments for tobacco dependence are underutilized, particularly among low-income and minority smokers. Continued progresses will prevent millions of people from dying each year from preventable tobacco-related illness, and save hundreds of billions of dollars a year in avoidable health-care expenditures and productivity losses (3). Improving the global knowledge base, an essential first step in identifying targets for change, can come from better measures of the prevalence of tobacco use across developing nations and of the social groups within nations most at risk for tobacco use (4).


Countries must continue to extend and strengthen their tobacco control efforts, ensuring they have both the financial resources and political commitment to promote effective and sustainable programs (1). Collectively, from tobacco excise taxes and tobacco industry legal settlements, states have billions of dollars available to them for preventing and controlling tobacco use.  In 2011, states collect $25.3 billion from legal settlements and tobacco taxes, but they are spending only 2% of the $25.3 billion on control programs of tobacco (2). Many countries can easily improve policies by strengthening the wording of warnings and including pictures rather than text-only warnings. Over the course of the 21st century, tobacco use could kill a billion people or more unless urgent action is taken (3).



  1. WHO Report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2011: warning about dangers of tobacco.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs—2007. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2007
  3. WHO Report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2009: implementing-smoking free environments.
  4. Fred Pampel, Tobacco use in sub-Sahara Africa: Estimates from the demographic health surveys, Social Science & Medicine 66 (2008) 1772-1783.

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