A tobacco-free Europe is within reach

Imagine a WHO European Region where tobacco is a thing of the past – a region free from tobacco-related morbidity, mortality and addiction. This vision is achievable. The path to realizing a tobacco-free Europe is laid out in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which entered into force more than a decade ago. Fifty countries of the European Region have adopted and become parties to the Convention, including its implementation guidelines, policy options and decisions. The WHO FCTC – along with a new international treaty, the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products – are powerful tools that can guide Europe to a tobacco-free future, if used to their full potential. While some European countries have established themselves as global tobacco control leaders, the overall level of WHO FCTC implementation in the Region remains low and few parties to the Convention have implemented it fully. A collective commitment to fully implementing the Convention will help the European Region realize the ultimate goal of a tobacco-free Europe. 

Why does a tobacco-free region matter so much?

Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death and disease in the European Region; it is also a leading contributor to overall health inequities in Europe. If a tobacco-free region became a reality, the health gains would be tremendous. Moreover, the Region would experience substantial returns on investment from effective tobacco control measures, with significant productivity gains and savings to health and social care.

Conversely, failure to achieve the goal of a tobacco-free region comes with a heavy cost. Tobacco control is a primary entry point for achieving the global target of a 25 percent reduction in premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases by 2025. Strengthening the implementation of the WHO FCTC is also a key driver in achieving the health aims of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The world cannot expect to meet its overarching health goals for the coming years without making meaningful progress on tobacco control.

Ministers of Health from the 53 Member States of the WHO European Region have signed onto a Roadmap of Actions, which will make it possible for coming generations to lead tobacco-free lives. The Roadmap aims to guide the Region towards reaching the goal of a minimum 30 percent relative reduction in the prevalence of current tobacco use in persons aged 15 years and over by 2025, and ultimately to a tobacco-free region.