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About this site

This site provides information, analysis and data on tobacco use and policies to reduce it.  It covers key issues that societies and policymakers face when thinking about tobacco and its control.

Explore this site if you are interested in:

  • bans on advertising and promotion
  • country-specific information about tobacco
  • death and disease from tobacco
  • cost-effectiveness of interventions to control tobacco
  • costs and benefits of tobacco control
  • nicotine addiction
  • nicotine replacement therapy
  • smuggling
  • tobacco and the poor
  • tobacco taxes
  • tobacco use
  • tobacco use and control in developing countries

In the database you'll find key country-specific data on

  • tobacco use
  • deaths caused by tobacco use
  • expenditures on health
  • tobacco tax structures, levels and revenues
  • regulations and restrictions ontobacco
  • tobacco leaf and cigarette production
  • employment related to tobacco
  • trade:  imports and expoerts (volume and value) of tobacco leaves and cigarettes

The 13 FAQs (frequently asked questions) cover:

  • the global debate on tobacco control:  the World Bank's role and policy, government strategies, cost-effectiveness
  • myths and realities:  tobacco and the poor, what smokers know about the risks of tobacco, tobacco taxes, rates and revenues, smuggling, impact of tobacco controls on farmers


Curbing the Epidemic:  Governments and the Economics of Tobacco Control, World Bank Development in Practice series.  1999.  Washington DC.  104 pages.

This report will help analysts and policymakers intent on improving health within the framework of sound economic policies.

Full text available on this site (you can download the whole report, or individual chapters).

Click here to order printed copies

Stock no.  14519 (ISBN 0-8213-4519-2).  US$35.00

Or contact World Bank Publications:

via e-mail:

World Bank Publications
P.O. Box 960, Herndon, VA  20172-0960, USA
Tel:  703-661-1580 or 800-645-7247  Fax:  703-661-1501

Key message:

Tobacco kills.  Smoking already causes one in 10 adults deaths worldwide.  Until recently, deaths and disease caused by smoking mainly affected rich nations but the impact is now rapidly shifting to the developing world.  By 2030, tobacco will kill 10 million people each year, the biggest single cause of death worldwide.  Seventy percent of those deaths will be in low-and middle-income countries, where tobacco use is growing fast, and many people do not know the risks.

Few people dispute that smoking is damaging health on a global scale.  However, many governments have been wary of acting to control smoking through higher taxes, comprehensive bans on advertising and promotion, or restrictions on smoking in public places due to concerns that interventions such as these could have harmful economic consequences.

"Curbing the Epidemic" addresses important economic and social issues that confront policymakers when dealing with tobacco.  The report:

  • estimates the gains in health and lives that tobacco control could achieve
  • assesses the conseuences of tobacco control for economies and individuals
  • demonstrates that the economic fears that have deterred policymakers from taking action are largely unfounded.

Countries that adopt measures to reduce tobacco use can prevent millions of premature deaths and much disability, especially among the poor.  The most effective (and cost-effective) measures are:

  • taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products
  • non-price measures, especially comprehensive bans on advertising and promotion of tobacco, information, including porminent health warning labels, and smoking restrictions
  • cessation treatments and programs:  nicotine replacement therapy, counseling and support, anti-depressants etc that can help smokers to quit.

These measures generally will not harm economies.  In almost all countries, there would be no net loss of jobs.  Evidence shows that higher tobaco taxes generate increases in revenues.  Even where smuggling becomes a serious problem, tax increases bring greater revenues and reduce smoking.

Governments, international agencies, NGOs and citizens can all help to reduce the devastating impact on global health from smoking.  Moderate action could win substantial health gains in the 21st century.

The report is the outcome of strong collaboration amond governments, non governmental organizations (NGOs), researchers and Universities, agencies within the United Nations system, including the World Health Organiztion, UNICEF, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Monetary Fund, and the office on Smoking and Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some comments about the report:

"The World Bank comprehensively dismisses the arguements of the tobacco industry that tobacco control measures impair freedom of choice."
-- The Financial Times, May 18, 1999

"Smoking is a very bigg killer accross the world, and its broad inroad into the Third World will kill more and more people in the future.  This report provides an understanding of the nature and magnitude of the problem and how it can be countered.  It is a fine balance of information and a timely plan of action."
-- Professor Amartya Sen.
1998 Nobel Laureat in Economics

"Tobacco is a major killer worldwide.  The biggest cost from tobacco is the enormous toll it brings from disease, suffering and family distress.  Health and not economic arguements, are the reason fro controlling tobacco, but economic arguements are raised as an obstacle to tobacco control policies."
-- Dr. Gro Harlem Burndtland
Director General of the World Health Organization


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