"To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did, I ought to know because I've done it a thousand times", Mark Twain.

Tobacco consumption is the single largest avoidable health risk in the European Union. It is the most significant cause of premature death in the EU, responsible for nearly 700,000 deaths every year. Around 50% of smokers die prematurely (on average 14 years earlier).

In addition, smokers have more life years in poor health. Many forms of cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases are linked to tobacco use, which causes more problems than alcohol, drugs, high blood pressure, excess weight or high cholesterol.

Despite considerable progress made in recent years, the number of smokers in the EU is still high – 28% of the overall population and 29% of young Europeans aged 15-24 smoke.

Policy priorities

To address this situation, the European Union and its Member States have taken various tobacco control measures in the form of legislation, recommendations and information campaigns.

These policy measures include:

From a public health perspective, the measures aim to protect citizens from the hazardous effects of smoking and other forms of tobacco consumption, including against second-hand smoke. Crucially, they aim to help smokers to quit or not to start smoking at all. Particular attention is given to youth smoking, as tobacco is an addictive product and 94% of smokers start smoking before they turn 25.

Tobacco products

Taking into account the significant cross border trade of tobacco products and the risk of diverging national legislation, EU-wide rules are necessary for these products. The rules ensure that all consumers are equally protected across the EU. The new Tobacco Products Directive  governing the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products became applicable in the EU Member States on 20 May 2016.


The EU is also working with its international partners  to reduce tobacco consumption on a global scale. The EU Member States, together with the European Commission, are active partners in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a legally binding international treaty that aims to reduce the damaging health and economic impacts of tobacco consumption.