The World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) developed the Global Tobacco Surveillance System (GTSS) to assist all 192 WHO Member States in collecting data on youth and adult tobacco use. The flexible GTSS system includes common data items but allows countries to include important unique information at their discretion. It uses a common survey methodology, similar field procedures for data collection, and similar data management and processing techniques. The GTSS includes collection of data through three surveys: the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) for youth, and the Global School Personnel Survey (GSPS) and the Global Health Professional Survey (GHPS) for adults. GTSS data potentially can be applied in four ways. First, countries and research partners can disseminate data through publications, presentations, and an active GTSS web site. Second, countries can use GTSS data to inform politicians about the tobacco problem in their country, leading to new policy decisions to prevent and control tobacco use. Third, GTSS can provide countries with valuable feedback to evaluate and improve Country National Action Plans or develop new plans. Fourth, in response to the WHO FCTC call for countries to use consistent methods and procedures in their surveillance efforts, GTSS offers such consistency in sampling procedures, core questionnaire items, training infield procedures, and analysis of data across all survey sites. The GTSS represents the most comprehensive tobacco surveillance system ever developed and implemented. As an example, this paper describes development of the GYTS and discusses potential uses of the data. Sample data were drawn from 38 sites in 24 countries in the African Region, 82 sites in 35 countries in the Americas Region, 20 sites in 17 countries and the Gaza Strip/West Bank region in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, 25 sites in 22 countries in the European Region, 34 sites in six countries in the Southeast Asia Region, and 25 sites in 14 countries in the Western Pacific Region.