Fighting tobacco smoking--a difficult but not impossible battle

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2009 Jan;6(1):69-83. doi: 10.3390/ijerph6010069. Epub 2009 Jan 5.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco-related disease is the single largest preventable cause of death in the world today, killing around 5.4 million people a year--an average of one person every six seconds. The total number of death caused by tobacco consumption is higher than that of tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. Unlike other communicable diseases, however, tobacco-related disease has a man-made consensus vector--the tobacco companies that play an active role to promote tobacco consumption, which directly heightens the disease morbidity. Any public health policy designed to curb smoking behavior has to prepare for opposite lobbying actions from tobacco companies that undermine the effects of the health measures. Another unique nature of the tobacco epidemic is that it can be cured, not by medicines or vaccines, but on the concerted actions of government and civil society. Many countries with a history of tobacco control measures indeed experienced a reduction of tobacco consumption. As most of these governments launched a range of measures simultaneously, it is hard to quantify the relative merits of different control strategies that contributed to the drop in the number of smokers. These packages of strategies can come in different forms but with some common features. Political actions with government support, funding, and protection are crucial. Without these, antismoking efforts in any part of the world are unlikely to be successful.

Keywords: Tobacco; World Health Organization; cigarette; epidemic; smoking.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Internationality
  • Smoking* / adverse effects
  • Social Control Policies*
  • World Health Organization