Global Tobacco ControlTobacco use kills more than 6 million people annually, 30 percent of whom will die from cancer-related diseases due to smoking. If current trends continue, tobacco use will kill 8 million people annually by 2030, 83 percent of whom reside in low- and middle-income countries.

Our global tobacco control program supports advocacy and research and builds the capacity of leaders and organizations in low and middle-income countries to effectively counter the tobacco industry’s efforts to undermine tobacco control. A central aim of the Society’s tobacco control program is to support implementation and enforcement of effective tobacco control policies. Our program has a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa, given that the African continent is home to the highest increase in the rate of tobacco use in the developing world.

The Global Tobacco Epidemic

In 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General Report on Smoking and Health created shockwaves by confirming what many scientists had suspected for decades: cigarette smokers were at higher risk of dying, and of suffering from lung cancer, coronary heart disease, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. For the first time, Americans were confronted with the notion that smoking cigarettes was a deadly habit. Since that time, large-scale public health interventions were progressively rolled out to help not only inform Americans about the dangers of smoking, but also to prevent them from starting to smoke, to help them quit, and to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke. Not everyone was convinced – about 18.4% of American adults still smoke- but the prevalence of the problem has greatly diminished over time. Similar scenarios unfolded in most high-income nations over the past 25 years, and consumption of tobacco products in occidental countries is slowly decreasing.

Yet, the consumption of tobacco products around the world has never been so high, in part because the tobacco epidemic has now become a global phenomenon. Faced with increasing health regulations in developed countries, the tobacco industry turned to new markets to find new users. And what better markets than those of developing economies, where governments and civil societies had not yet mobilized to protect the health of their citizens from this emerging risk factor? Low- and middle-income economies, once thought of as mainly afflicted by infectious conditions and basic health and sanitation challenges, have started to face a double burden of disease and are increasingly suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders and chronic respiratory illnesses. The health profile of low- and middle-income countries is therefore changing rapidly, precipitating increases in health care costs and depriving families of income, and tobacco is one of the key risk factors driving this change. It is the single greatest preventable cause of NCDs, which are now the number one cause of premature death and disability worldwide, killing more people than HIV, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

Did you know that, around the world...?

  • One billion people smoke cigarettes.
  • Half of cigarette users will die because they smoke.
  • Six million people die every year because of tobacco. This figure includes five million smokers, but also about 600,000 non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke.
  • It is expected that, without any action, eight million people will die annually, by 2030. Over 80% of these deaths will be in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) kill 35 million people annually, 80% of which are in low- and middle-income countries. Tobacco is responsible for 1 out of 6 NCD deaths.
  • 100 million people were killed by tobacco in the 20th century – as many as 1 billion are expected to die in the 21st century.
  • Tobacco smoking is an important risk factor for tuberculosis, and can increase the risk of death of infected patients.
  • Not only cigarettes kill. Smokeless tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco, are commonly used in many low- and middle-income countries, and also cause oral cancers, hypertension, and heart disease.

African Tobacco Control Consortium

The African Tobacco Control Consortium (ATCC) is a coalition of public health organizations focused on preventing a tobacco epidemic in Africa. The ATCC is coordinated by the American Cancer Society in partnership with the Africa Tobacco Control Regional Initiative, Africa Tobacco Control Alliance, Framework Convention Alliance, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. This five-year project is funded primarily through an $8 million grant awarded to the Society by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The American Cancer Society also contributes significant financial and human resources to this initiative.

The African Tobacco Control Consortium Project aims to promote evidence-based tobacco control programs and policies in sub-Saharan Africa to prevent an epidemic of tobacco-caused death and disease in the region. The Society supports the African partners through project management training, advocacy and research training, and connecting and empowering the African tobacco control community. The focus is on developing and implementing key policies outlined in the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control including: tobacco tax increases, advertising bans, graphic health warnings, and smoke-free public places.

ATCC’s work is concentrated in 10 African countries:

  • Benin
  • Botswana
  • Cameroon
  • Congo-Brazzaville
  • Gabon
  • Gambia

The ATCC grants program, managed by the Society, is designed to meet the unique needs of each of these countries as they identify and implement programs to meet their tobacco control priorities.

ACS Global Tobacco Control Collaborations

The American Cancer Society has a long history of involvement with the global tobacco control movement. Today, we have key partnerships with several organizations to continue the collaborative efforts to fight tobacco.

Global Smokefree Partnership

For over 4 years, the American Cancer Society has been a partner of the Global Smokefree Partnership, a multi-partner initiative formed to promote effective smokefree air policies worldwide. The Partnership helps practitioners and advocates access evidence for smokefree policies, request assistance from a network of experts, and take action in support of smokefree policies. The Global Smokefree Partnership has over 300 members in over 100 countries worldwide. In 2008, the Partnership unveiled “Smokefree in a Box,” a highly successful guide to help companies design and implement a 100 percent smokefree workplace. For more information on the Global Smokefree Partnership, please visit

Global Bridges – Health Care Alliance for Tobacco Dependence Treatment

Global Bridges is a worldwide science-based initiative created with the aim of uniting health care providers in their efforts to treat tobacco dependence while advocating for effective tobacco control policies. This collaborative partnership between the Mayo Clinic and the Society brings together health care providers with complementary expertise to build awareness about the harms of tobacco use, enhance access to proven treatment methods, adapt to regional needs, and increase the pace of skill development throughout each of the World Health Organization’s six regions.

Past Collaborations

Beginning in 2000, the Society collaborated with the International Union Against Cancer to offer a Tobacco Control Fellowship Program, as well as Seed Grants to support the participation of tobacco control leaders from low- and middle-income countries in the World Health Conference on Tobacco or Health. After the adoption by the World Health Assembly of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2003, the Society partnered withCancer Research UK and the International Union Against Cancer to launch the Global Advocacy for the FCTC grants initiative. This grant program aimed to support tobacco control advocates and their campaigns in favor of ratification and implementation of the FCTC in their respective countries. By 2009, the FCTC grants program had funded 67 grants to 46 organizations in 38 countries, where grantees have led successful campaigns for ratification and implementation of the FCTC.

The Society has developed key partnerships with various organizations in countries to develop and implement global initiatives, such as the “Travaillons sans fumée” or “Smoke-free at Work” Initiative in North Africa, the Africa Tobacco Control Regional Initiative, and the tobacco control media advocacy strategy with the Vietnam Committee on Smoking and Health. In 2008, the Society worked with the China Ministry of Health and Chinese Center for Disease Control to support a smokefree Beijing Olympics.