Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

Building blocks for tobacco control: a handbook

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Publishing and ordering information

© World Health Organization 2004
ISBN 92 4 154658 1


The World Health Organization Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI) has launched a new publication in the series 'Tools for advancing tobacco control in the 21st century' on 22 June 2004, with the title: Building blocks for tobacco control: a handbook.

The Handbook was launched in CD-ROM version during a lunchtime seminar, in June 2004, at WHO, Geneva during the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) session for the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The print version (English) was released in late 2004 and is being disseminated widely.


The tobacco epidemic is a global challenge demanding concerted global and national action. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) contains the blueprint for coordinated global action to address one of the most significant risks to health. However, national action is critical in order to attain the vision embodied in the WHO FCTC. Building national capacity to carry out effective and sustainable national tobacco control programmes is an urgent priority, and one of the most important measures required to combat the tobacco epidemic.

The idea of developing this Handbook arose from the awareness that while various official WHO documents called upon countries to develop national capacity for tobacco control, there was no comprehensive publication to guide them through the process of developing such capacity. Conceived as a “How to” manual, the approach is intentionally pragmatic, addressing ‘real world’ issues and providing practical advice for setting up viable national tobacco control programmes.

The Handbook contains three main sections.

  • The Introduction presents the evolving definition of “national capacity”, identifies the types of capacities needed for effective tobacco control and outlines the key features of building capacity.
  • Section 1 provides a descriptive overview of the tobacco epidemic. This section is divided into four chapters. These chapters address tobacco as a risk factor, presenting its health, social and economic costs; the global strategies of the tobacco industry to counteract public health measures; the scientific evidence for effective tobacco control interventions; and the WHO FCTC as a global solution to an epidemic with prominent politico-legal and socio-cultural attributes.
  • Section 2 focuses on the fundamental capacities necessary to empower countries to control the tobacco epidemic successfully. These chapters apply the lessons learned from the experiences of different countries and offer advice and suggestions to enable countries to put the theories of tobacco control into practice. This section begins with the development of a national plan of action as the foundation for successful tobacco control at the country level. It addresses the other important elements in national capacity-building, including establishing an effective infrastructure for a national tobacco control programme, training and education, raising public awareness through effective communications and media advocacy, programming specific tobacco control activities, legislative measures for tobacco control and exploring economic interventions and funding initiatives.

Finally, chapters on countering the tobacco industry, forming effective partnerships, monitoring and evaluating progress, and exchanging information and research provide valuable insights to improve tobacco control capacity.

By sharing lessons learned from different countries and utilizing numerous examples, it is hoped that this Handbook will assist and inspire national governments to take on the challenge of reducing tobacco consumption and the related mortality and morbidity.