The information here is provided by courtesy of the Network's short online course - "An Introduction to Global Health". 



Tobacco use is one of the biggest public health problems and reducing its use is essential for reduce the burden of non-communicable disease.


How many people smoke tobacco? 


Around 20% of the world’s adults smoke tobacco. 


Map 1 shows the pattern of smoking across the world. 


Map 1





What does tobacco do?


This You Tube video explains what happens when someone smokes a cigarette. (7.5 minutes)


This WHO video on You Tube explains the specific effects of smoking on the heart (8.75 minutes)


  • Chemicals in the smoke from tobacco are carcinogenic and absorption into the blood stream also damages the arteries. 
  • Smokeless tobacco also contains chemicals that are carcinogenic. 
  • Tobacco kills up to half of its users - more than 8 million people each year.
  • More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke
  • There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.
  • Over 80% of the world's 1.3 billion tobacco users live in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Smoking contributes to poverty by diverting household spending from basic needs to tobacco. 
  • Most people start smoking under the age of 20. Low- and Middle-Income countries have a higher proportion of younger people.  These countries are, therefore, targeted by the tobacco industry for marketing its products, with efforts to conceal the harm they have.



Effective strategies to reduce smoking  


These include


  • a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
  • increasing tobacco taxes
  • providing users with help to quit
  • stopping the illicit trade in tobacco


WHO Contribution to reducing tobacco smoking 


In 2003, WHO Member States unanimously adopted the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), for which 182 Parties covering more than 90% of the world's population have subscribed. Key features of the Framework Convention are 


a) Price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco

b) Non-price measures to reduce the demand for tobacco

c) Supply reduction


Non-price measures include - 


  • Protection from exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Regulation of the contents of tobacco products
  • Regulation of tobacco product disclosures
  • Packaging and labelling of tobacco products
  • Education, communication, training and public awareness
  • Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
  • Demand reduction measures concerning tobacco dependence and cessation


The core supply reduction provisions are 


  • Illicit trade in tobacco products
  • Sales to and by minors
  • Provision of support for economically viable alternative activities.



Further Reading 


WHO : Tobacco Fact Sheet


WHO : WHO global report on trends in prevalence of tobacco use 2000 – 2025 (2019)


WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control


WHO : WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic 2019: offer to help quit tobacco use


WHO : WHO global report: mortality attributable to tobacco



Tobacco image