World Health Organisation

Tobacco Free Initiative

According to WHO estimates, there are currently 3.5 million deaths a year from tobacco, a figure expected to rise to about 10 million by 2030. By that date, based on current smoking trends, tobacco is predicted to be the leading cause of disease burden in the world, causing about one in eight deaths. 70% of those deaths will occur in developing countries. The sheer scale of tobacco's impact on global disease burden, and particularly what is likely to happen without appropriate intervention in developing countries, is often not fully appreciated. The extremely negative impact of tobacco on health now and in the future is the primary reason for giving explicit and strong support to tobacco control on a worldwide basis. In response to these concerns the Director-General, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, established a Cabinet project, the Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI), in July 1998 to coordinate an improved global strategic response to tobacco as an important public health issue.

The long-term mission of global tobacco control is to reduce smoking prevalence and tobacco consumption in all countries and among all groups, and thereby reduce the burden of disease caused by tobacco. In support of this mission, the goals of the Tobacco Free Initiative are to:

Galvanize global support for evidence-based tobacco control policies and actions

  • Build new, and strengthen existing partnerships for action
  • Heighten awareness of the social, human and economic harm of tobacco in all sectors of society, and the need to take comprehensive actions at all levels
  • Accelerate national, regional and global strategic planning, implementation and evaluation
  • Commission policy research to support rapid, sustained and innovative actions
  • Mobilize adequate resources to support action
  • Integrate tobacco into the broader agenda of health and development
  • Facilitate the development of an effective Framework Convention for Tobacco Control and related protocols

In achieving these goals, the Tobacco Free Initiative will build strong internal and external partnerships "with a purpose" with each WHO Cluster and Regional and Country Offices, and with a range of organizations and institutions around the world. The purpose of these partnerships will reflect the unique and complementary roles of WHO's partners and of WHO at all levels of the organization. Success will be measured in terms of actions achieved at local, country and global levels that lead to better tobacco control.

Find more information on the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative website: