The World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) has prompted major change in tobacco control globally. However, policy implementation has been uneven, making 'smoke free' outcomes possible in some countries, but not others. We identify the factors that would improve implementation. We describe an ideal type of 'comprehensive tobacco control regimes', where policy environments are conducive to the implementation of tobacco control measures designed to eradicate tobacco use. The ideal type requires that a country have certain policy processes: the department of health takes the policy lead; tobacco is 'framed' as a public health problem; public health groups are consulted at the expense of tobacco interests; socioeconomic conditions are conducive to policy change; and, the scientific evidence is 'set in stone' within governments. No country will meet all these criteria in the short term, and the gap between the ideal type and the current state is wide in many countries. However, the WHO experience provides a model for progress.