Global Strategy

Implementing tobacco control for public health reinforces sovereign governments’ commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. With the opportunity to generate significant revenue, tobacco taxation is potentially a win-win policy for development.

To address the tobacco menace more successfully, there have been important, over-arching global efforts to promote tobacco control. One of the central initiatives to situate country-level efforts in the global context has been the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which came into force in 2005 and provides a systematic framework of obligations and corresponding guidelines to reach tobacco control success. The ratification of this international treaty is voluntary and draws upon the political commitment of signatory countries to develop, implement and enforce the interventions. As of late 2017, the treaty had 181 Parties. For many, it provides effective political acceptability to implement politically-challenging measures.

The implementation of key tobacco control demand-reduction measures (e.g., tobacco taxation; smoke-free policies; packaging and labeling provisions; marketing bans; and cessation programs) at the highest levels of achievement accelerated among the WHO FCTC Parties between 2007 and 2014. Effective implementation of these measures is significantly associated with lower smoking prevalence, which typically leads to considerable reductions in tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.

Global tobacco control also fits snugly into broader public health efforts, for example by constituting a major element of the United Nations’ efforts to address noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) around the world. The 2012 Political Declaration of the High-Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) recognized the enormous health and economic burden of NCDs on households and nations, and agreed to reduce deaths from four prominent NCDs (i.e. cancer, diabetes, lung disease and cardiovascular disease) [MAIN MAP]. The WHO created voluntary targets for prevention of premature deaths from these NCDs, which includes a 30% relative reduction in adult smoking prevalence.

Global tobacco control became even more salient through the integration of the WHO FCTC in the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs]. These goals not only reaffirmed the commitment of sovereign governments to fulfill tobacco control implementation for public health, but also for sustainable development. National planning to achieve these goals by 2030 provides opportunities for governments to demonstrate that reducing tobacco use is critical to achieving development goals and empowers them to incorporate tobacco control best practices into many development-related policies, paving the way to a tobacco-free generation.

Momentum is also building globally— including from organizations such as the World Bank— to use tobacco tax revenue for financing poverty alleviation and other development programs critical to many resource-poor countries. With the opportunity to generate significant revenue while reducing tobacco consumption and tobacco-induced health and environmental costs, tobacco taxation can stand out as a win-win policy for development.

The Success Story of the Sin Tax Reform in the Philippines

The landmark "Sin Tax Reform" enacted in the Philippines in December 2012 was anchored to financing the expansion of Universal Health Care (UHC), in addition to alternative livelihood programs for tobacco farmers and health promotion. More than 85% of the incremental revenue from excise on tobacco and alcohol products was dedicated to these programs. The incremental revenue was US$ 1.21 billion in the first year of implementation of the "sin tax" law in 2013, US$ 1.13 billion in 2014, and US$ 1.61 billion in 2015. The actual revenue collection was way over the target in every year.

While smoking prevalence declined sharply from 28.3% in 2009 to 22.7% in 2015, the incremental revenue poured into the UHC program, almost tripling the number of poor people with free health insurance coverage in three years, from 5.2 million in 2012 to 15.4 million in 2015.3 The phenomenal achievement of the Philippines' Sin Tax Reform bringing forth concurrent health and financial gains would be a universal model for development in years to come.  

Tobacco Taxes to Aid Tobacco Control as well as Development

The annual increase in global excise revenue by $190 billion PPP, from raising cigarette excise tax in each country by $1 PPP per 20-cigarette pack, could lift a quarter of the world’s 767 million poor above the poverty line.

The Toll of NCDs on Humanity

Share of total deaths due to NCDs (%), 2016


Goodchild M, Perucic AM, Nargis N. Modelling the impact of raising tobacco taxes on public health and finance. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2016; 94:250-257.

Gravely S, Giovino GA, Craig LV, et al. Implementation of key demand-reduction measures of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and change in smoking prevalence in 126 countries: an association study. The Lancet Public Health 2017. 2. e166-74.

UN. Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. New York: United National General Assembly, 2015.

UN. Political Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases. New York: United Nations General Assembly, 2012.

WHO. WHO framework convention on tobacco control. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2003.