Tobacco is the largest single cause of avoidable death in the EU. With awareness of its harmful effects increasing, the EU is working to prevent people from taking up smoking, help smokers to quit, protect people from exposure to tobacco smoke and restrict tobacco advertising and marketing.
Despite considerable progress, the number of smokers in the EU is still high – around one third of the population – and the associated health problems include some 695 000 smoking-related deaths each year. Almost half of those dying are between 35-69 – well below average life expectancy. As awareness grows, vulnerable groups are increasingly demanding protection from the disease, disability and death which can result from exposure to tobacco smoke.
Legislative measures, funding of tobacco control projects and information campaigns are the main activities of the EU in this field, addressed within the frame of a comprehensive approach. The EU has integrated tobacco control into a range of other EU policies such as taxation policy and agricultural policy. It plays an active role in global tobacco control, notably through the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (the first ever international treaty on health), which commits countries all over the world to act to reduce smoking-related deaths and diseases, and provides a framework for increasingly stringent tobacco control measures.