Researcher Finds the Global Tobacco Control Treaty Has Reduced Smoking Rates in its First Decade, but More Work is Needed

Published May 4, 2017

“Tremendous health gains are possible if countries would adopt more of these proven health-promoting strategies.”
Department of Community Health and Health Behavior

The WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC), has increased the adoption of tobacco reduction measures around the world, contributing to a 2.5 percentage point reduction in global smoking rates, according to a recent study published in The Lancet Public Health.

However, despite worldwide progress since the WHO-FCTC  came into effect in 2005, not all key demand-reduction measures have been fully implemented at the same pace; doing so could reduce tobacco use even further. The treaty obligates the 180 countries committed to it to implement strong evidence-based policies, including five key measures: high tobacco taxes, smoke-free public spaces, warning labels, comprehensive advertising bans, and support for stop smoking services.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project, based at the University of Waterloo in Canada, the World Health Organization in Geneva, and Dr. Gary A. Giovino, professor and chair of the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions. Giovino noted that “although progress in combatting the global tobacco epidemic has been substantial, this progress has fallen short of the pace of global tobacco control action called for by the treaty. Tremendous health gains are possible if countries would adopt more of these proven health-promoting strategies.“

The study analysed WHO data from 126 countries (116 parties and 10 non-parties), tracking strong implementation of the five key demand-reduction measures from 2007 to 2014, and examining the association between the number of measures fully implemented and changes in countries’ smoking rates from 2005 to 2015. Those countries fully implementing more of these measures experienced significantly greater reductions in smoking rates. Overall, each additional measure implemented at the highest level was associated with a reduction in smoking rates of 1.57 percentage points. On average, smoking rates across the 126 countries decreased from 24.7% in 2005 to 22.2% in 2015 . However, the trends varied across countries, with smoking rates decreasing in 90 countries, increasing in 24 and remaining the same in 12 countries.

Since the treaty came into force, a number of countries have made dramatic advances in their efforts to reduce tobacco use, including some low- and middle-income countries. For example, Panama introduced a complete smoke-free policy and a complete ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship in 2008, and established a strong quit assistance program in 2009. Nepal introduced a complete smoking ban and a complete tobacco marketing ban. More recently, it also introduced the world’s largest pack warnings, taking up 90% of the front and back of the pack, with strong graphic images of the harms caused by cigarettes.

According to WHO, tobacco use causes approximately six million annual deaths throughout the world. It also poses a huge burden on the global economy through healthcare and lost productivity costs of more than US$1 trillion each year.

The full citation of the article is: Gravely S, Giovino GA, Craig L, Commar A, Tursan D’Espaignet E, Schotte K, Fong GT. Implementation of key demand-reduction measures of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and change in smoking prevalence in 126 countries: an association study. Lancet Public Health April 2017;2(4):e166-e174.