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Tobacco use is the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer mortality in the world. It also causes a range of other diseases and conditions including cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, sudden infant death syndrome and blindness. Tobacco is both highly addictive and lethal when used as intended by its manufacturer. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that tobacco kills more than 7 million people a year, including around 890,000 non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke. Tobacco kills up to half of its users. It impedes social and economic development by reducing productivity, diverting expenditure from necessities such as food, education and health care, and imposing health care costs on families and communities.

Law has long played a central role in tobacco control. This includes the adoption of legislative or regulatory measures providing for, for example, smokefree workplaces and public places, mandatory health warnings and product information, and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; litigation against the tobacco industry by individuals and governments over its conduct, or by employees and members of the public against employers and occupiers of public places over exposure to tobacco smoke; or litigation by the tobacco industry in domestic and international fora to challenge tobacco control measures.

The framework for global tobacco control is set by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO. The WHO FCTC was adopted by the 56th World Health Assembly by resolution WHA56.1 on 21 May 2003 and entered into force on 27 February 2005. It now has 181 Parties. Under the treaty, Parties commit to a range of measures dealing with demand reduction, supply reduction and international cooperation (including reporting). The treaty’s governing body, the Conference of the Parties (COP), has met seven times. The eighth session of the COP will take place in October 2018.

The McCabe Centre performs the functions of a WHO FCTC Knowledge Hub on matters within its expertise, in particular legal challenges to implementation of the WHO FCTC, pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding between the Convention Secretariat and the Union for International Cancer Control. Through the McCabe Centre Knowledge Hub on Legal Challenges to the WHO FCTC Implementation, parties and interested partners can find information regarding the WHO FCTC, State obligations under international trade and investment law, and the relationships between them. The Knowledge Hub also provides information on ongoing trade and investment challenges to implementation of tobacco control measures. In addition, the Knowledge Hub provides information on common arguments raised in legal challenges in domestic and regional courts and illustrative overviews of select domestic and regional cases.


See the McCabe Centre Knowledge Hub on Legal Challenges to the WHO FCTC Implementation for information on the WHO FCTC, trade law, international investment law, and domestic law issues that are relevant to defending measures implementing the Convention from tobacco industry litigation.