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Tobacco control

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Tobacco control

Tobacco control is a field of international WHO), through the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Tobacco control activists in Mumbai, 2009

The early history of tobacco control

The first attempts to respond to the health consequences to tobacco use followed soon after the introduction of tobacco to Europe. Pope Urban VII's thirteen-day papal reign included the world's first known tobacco use restrictions in 1590 when he threatened to excommunicate anyone who "took tobacco in the porchway of or inside a church, whether it be by chewing it, smoking it with a pipe or sniffing it in powdered form through the nose".[1] The earliest citywide European smoking restrictions were enacted in Bavaria, Kursachsen, and certain parts of Austria in the late 17th century.

In Britain, a response to the still-new habit of smoking met royal opposition in 1604, when King James I wrote A Counterblaste to Tobacco, describing smoking as: "A custome loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmeful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomeless." His commentary was accompanied by a doctor of the same period, writing under the pseudonym "Philaretes", who as well as explaining tobacco's harmful effects under the system of the four humours ascribed an infernal motive to its introduction, explaining his dislike of tobacco as grounded upon eight 'principal reasons and arguments' (in their original spelling):

  1. First, that in their use and custom, no method or order is observed. Diversitie and distinction of persons, times and seasons considered.
  2. Secondly, for that it is in qualitie and complexion more hot and drye then may be conveniently used dayly of any man: much lesse of the hot and cholerique constitution.
  3. Thirdly, for that it is experimented and tryed to be a most strong and violent purge.
  4. Fourthly, for that it witherete and drieth up naturall moisture in our bodies, therby causing sterrilitie and barrennesses: In which respect it seemeth an enemie to the continuance and propagacion of mankinde.
  5. Fiftly, for that it decayeth and dissipateh naturall heate, that kindly warmeth in us, and thereby is cause of crudities and rewmes, occasions of infinit maladies.
  6. Sixtly, for that this herb is rather weeed, seemethe not voide of venome and poison, and thereby seemeth an enemie to the lyfe of man.
  7. Seventhly, for that the first author and finder hereof was the Divell, and the first practisers of the same were the Divells Preiests, and therefore not to be used of us Christians.
  8. Last of all, because it is a great augmentor of all sorts of melancholie in our bodies, a humor fit to prepare our bodies to receave the prestigations and hellih illusions and impressions of the Divell himselfe: in so much that many Phisitions and learned mean doe hold this humour to be the verie seate of the Divell in bodies possessed.

Later in the seventeenth century, Sir Francis Bacon identified the addictive consequences of tobacco use, observing that it "is growing greatly and conquers men with a certain secret pleasure, so that those who have once become accustomed thereto can later hardly be restrained therefrom".[2]

Smoking was forbidden in Berlin in 1723, in Königsberg in 1742, and in Stettin in 1744. These restrictions were repealed in the revolutions of 1848.[3] In 1930s Germany, scientific research for the first time revealed a connection between lung cancer and smoking, so the use of cigarettes and smoking was strongly discouraged by a heavy government sponsored anti-smoking campaign.[4][5]

The origins of modern tobacco control

After the Second World War, the German research was effectively silenced due to perceived associations with Nazism. However, the work of Royal College of Physicians[6] and the 1964 report of the U.S. Surgeon General.

Comprehensive tobacco control

The concept of multi-pronged and therefore 'comprehensive' tobacco control arose through academic advances (e.g. the dedicated Tobacco Control journal), not-for-profit advocacy groups such as World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, or FCTC for short.

The FCTC compels signatories to advance activity on the full range of tobacco control fronts, including limiting interactions between legislators and the tobacco industry, imposing taxes upon tobacco products and carrying out demand reduction, protecting people from exposure to second-hand smoke in indoor workplaces and public places through smoke-free laws, regulating and disclosing the contents and emissions of tobacco products, posting highly visible health warnings upon tobacco packaging, removing deceptive labelling (e.g. 'light' or 'mild'), improving public awareness of the consequences of smoking, prohibiting all tobacco advertising, provision of cessation programmes, effective counter-measures to smuggling of tobacco products, restriction of sales to minors and relevant research and information-sharing among the signatories.

WHO subsequently produced an internationally-applicable and now widely recognised summary of the essential elements of tobacco control strategy, publicised as the mnemonic MPOWER tobacco control strategy.[9] The six components are:

Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies
Protect people from tobacco smoke
Offer help to quit tobacco use
Warn about the dangers of tobacco
Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
Raise taxes on tobacco

In 2003, India passed the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 restricted advertisement of tobacco products, banning smoking in public places and other regulation on trade of tobacco products. In 2010, Bhutan, passed the Tobacco Control Act of Bhutan 2010 to regulate tobacco and tobacco products, banning the cultivation, harvesting, production, and sale of tobacco and tobacco products in Bhutan.

International collaboration

The tobacco control community is internationally organised - as is its main opponent, the tobacco industry (sometimes referred to as 'Big Tobacco'). This allows for sharing of effective practice (both in advocacy and policy) between developed and developing states, for instance through the World Conference on Tobacco or Health held every three years. However, some significant gaps remain, particularly the failure of the US and Switzerland (both bases for international tobacco companies and, in the former case, a tobacco producer) to ratify the FCTC.


Now an accepted element of the public health arena, tobacco control polices and activity are seen to have been effective in those administrations which have implemented them in a co-ordinated fashion; England, for instance, met its target to reduce its adult smoking prevalence to 21% or lower by 2010 through such an approach.[10] Direct and indirect opposition from the tobacco industry continue, for instance through the tobacco industry's efforts at misinformation via suborned scientists [11] and 'astroturf' counter-advocacy operations such as FOREST.


Tobacco Control is also the name of a journal published by BMJ Group (the publisher of the British Medical Journal) which studies the nature and implications of tobacco use and the effect of tobacco use upon health, the economy, the environment and society. Edited by Ruth Malone, Professor and Chair, Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, it was first published in 1992.

See also


  1. ^ Henningfield, Jack E. (1985). Nicotine: An Old-Fashioned Addiction. Chelsea House. pp. 96–8.  
  2. ^ Bacon, Francis Historia vitae et mortis(1623)
  3. ^  
  4. ^ Young 2005, p. 252
  5. ^ Proctor RN (February 2001). "Commentary: Schairer and Schöniger's forgotten tobacco epidemiology and the Nazi quest for racial purity".  
  6. ^ Royal College of Physicians "Smoking and Health. Summary and report of the Royal College of Physicians of London on smoking in relation to cancer of the lung and other diseases"(1962)
  7. ^ HM Government. "Smoking Kills. A White Paper on Tobacco" published by The Stationery Office 1998.
  8. ^ Burnett, Keith. "Empowering local action on international priorities; a framework for action on the ground", 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health, Mumbai, 2009. Accessed 2011-10-04.
  9. ^ World Health Organization. "MPOWER". Accessed 2011-10-04.
  10. ^ HM Government "A Smokefree Future", 2010. Accessed 2011-10-04.
  11. ^ HM Government "Industry Recuritment of Scientific Experts", Tobacco Industry Documents in the Minnesota Depository: Implications for Global Tobacco Control Briefing Paper No. 3 (February 1999) . Accessed 2011-10-04.


  • Young, T. Kue (2005), Population Health: Concepts and Methods, Oxford University Press,  .

External links

  • Tobacco Control journal
  • Tobacco Policy
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