Cigarette smoking and other tobacco use imposes a huge and growing public health burden globally. Currently, approximately 5 million people are killed annually by tobacco use; by 2030, estimates based on current trends indicate that this number will increase to 10 million, with 70% of deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Numerous studies from high-income countries, and a growing number from low- and middle-income countries, provide strong evidence that tobacco tax increases, dissemination of information about health risks from smoking, restrictions on smoking in public places and in work-places, comprehensive bans on advertising and promotion and increased access to cessation therapies are all effective in reducing tobacco use and its consequences. Despite this evidence, tobacco control policies have been unevenly applied--due partly to political constraints. This paper provides a summary of these issues, beginning with an overview of trends in global tobacco use and its consequences and followed by a review of the evidence on the effectiveness of tobacco control policies in reducing tobacco use. A description of the types and comprehensiveness of policies currently in place and a discussion of some of the factors correlated with the strength and comprehensive of these policies follows.