Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

Legislation and enforcement

WHO/J. Holmes


Legislation is key to effective tobacco control. It institutionalizes and makes binding a country's commitment for tobacco control, creates focus for tobacco control activity and regulates private and public conduct in ways that voluntary measures cannot.

The enactment of legislation has its challenges. These include a lack of awareness by policy-makers and the public of the serious harms caused by tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke; the lack of human, technical and other capacity, infrastructure and resources; and continuing opposition of the tobacco industry and its affiliates and allies. It is important to counter this opposition. Success requires strong and continual political commitment throughout the life of the legislation. Furthermore, the success of a legislation will depend on its effective implementation, enforcement and compliance mechanisms, supported by financial and technical resources, as well as educational and awareness raising strategies to ensure public support.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) now has more than 170 Parties, representing more than 85% of the world's population, As with any other treaty, the WHO FCTC confers legal obligations on its Parties — that is, on the countries (and the European Union) that have formally become Parties to it. With this impetus, many countries are in the process of developing and strengthening their tobacco control legislation and ensuring effective mechanisms for enforcement.

In addition to information provided in the WHO FCTC's guidelines, countries can draw upon best practice legislative and regulatory examples from other countries, adapting them to meet their own varying national systems and needs. WHO and its partners have also developed a number of resources that can be accessed from WHO web sites and other sources.