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Breaking the Hold: Global Tobacco Control

The Problem

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths globally. Approximately 5.4 million people die each year from tobacco use. That figure is expected to rise to more than 8 million deaths a year by 2030 and the vast majority of deaths will occur in low- to middle-income countries.

The CDC Response

Where We Work

  • More than 160 countries

Key Partners

  • The World Health Organization
  • The CDC Foundation
  • Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • The World Lung Foundation
  • Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
  • The International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease
  • The Union for International Cancer Control
  • The World Bank
  • National Governments
  • Non-Governmental Organizations

Six actions have been proven to decrease smoking and save lives. Together they comprise the WHO MPOWER package. CDC is working diligently to support their uptake. They include:

Monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies;
Protecting people from tobacco smoke;
Offering help to quit tobacco use;
Warning about the dangers of tobacco;
Enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship; and
Raising taxes on tobacco.

To implement these strategies CDC monitors the tobacco use epidemic through surveillance. We provide tools for countries to translate data into policy, and we advance research promoting effective tobacco use control programs. By strengthening partnerships, we help make tobacco use control initiatives sustainable.

The Global Tobacco Surveillance System (GTSS) is an example of our surveillance work. This system enhances a country’s capability to design, implement, and evaluate tobacco use control interventions. A standard protocol is used to monitor tobacco use and track tobacco control policy measures for youth, adults, and other groups. GTSS includes four surveys: Global Youth Tobacco Survey, Global Adult Tobacco Survey, Global Health Professions Student Survey, and Global School Personnel Survey. CDC, a WHO collaborating center on global tobacco surveillance, is the GTSS data coordinator and depository.


In Uruguay following a major rainstorm, a field interviewer crosses a flooded pathway to collect data from rural residents for the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS).

In Uruguay following a major rainstorm, a field interviewer crosses a flooded pathway to collect data from rural residents for the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS).

The youth tobacco survey has been completed in more than 168 countries and repeated in many others. Fourteen countries have completed the adult tobacco use survey. Data show that 1 in 10 students and 4 in 10 adults in the surveyed countries smoke cigarettes. Using GTSS data, CDC is developing training and guidance for the Field Epidemiology Training Program and for GTSS networks to accelerate data dissemination and translation for policy interventions and program implementation.

Vision for Growth

The GTSS surveys have enabled unprecedented comparisons of the tobacco problem between countries. Beyond the GTSS surveys, CDC also works with countries to incorporate standard tobacco use-related questions into other ongoing surveys. These data then inform critical policy action, such as CDC’s collaboration with the World Bank to support countries in tobacco taxation and public health finance initiatives, thus enhancing the knowledge base for future tobacco control initiatives.

  • Page last reviewed: September 16, 2011
  • Page last updated: September 16, 2011
  • Content source: Global Health
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