Tobacco Control Strategies: Past Efficacy and Future Promise
The public health impact of smoking remains as prominent as ever. At present, over 400,000 premature deaths - far and away the highest tally for any product or substance on the market - are attributable to smoking. And, per capita use and trend rates suggest no reason for relaxed regulatory scrutiny. In this article, I offer a view of past efficacy and future promise of tobacco control strategies. After a brief treatment of the demographics of smoking, indicating the distance that has been covered in reducing tobacco use, I discuss the main factors contributing to that partial success story; in particular, informational initiatives, clean air regulations, and taxation. Then, I address the strategies that, to my mind, have been somewhat less successful: litigation and advertising controls. Finally, I comment on the array of public health initiatives that might sensibly be considered at this point in time, with particular emphasis on reducing the prevalence of youth smoking.