Tackling the epidemic: Tobacco control research at IDRC

March 08, 2018
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a man smoking in Kenya

IDRC

More than two decades of funding 

The tobacco epidemic kills more than 6 million people every year, making it one of the world’s most significant public health threats. With nearly 80% of the world’s one billion smokers living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), governments and households alike are struggling to cope with growing tobacco-related healthcare costs and lost productivity. 

Despite the indisputable merits of tobacco control, implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) has only just begun in many countries. This slow pace of implementation costs countless lives and imposes economic hardship on governments faced with rising healthcare costs and lost opportunities to invest in sustainable development. This is the context in which IDRC approaches the issue of tobacco use: as a threat not only to global health, but also to international development efforts.

Focusing on policy-based solutions

Policy solutions exist to advance both tobacco control and development objectives. However, many policymakers, who are concentrating on other pressing economic and public health concerns, do not prioritize tobacco control. IDRC’s investments focus on addressing the economic rationale for tobacco control; research supported by the Centre enables countries to implement fiscal and policy measures to effectively control and reduce tobacco use.

IDRC has supported international tobacco control research for more than 20 years and is recognized as a pioneer in treating tobacco as a development issue. The Centre has supported research to establish foundational evidence and to encourage the necessary leadership to help countries better negotiate and adopt the FCTC and its provisions. Other policy measures such as regulations on marketing, packaging, and products are effective population interventions to reduce tobacco use. 

However, fears that action on tobacco will cause economic harm to businesses, employment, farmers, and poor households have been a hindrance to the implementation of effective tobacco control measures. There remains a great need for locally owned and country-level economic evidence to inform the public and support policymakers in making evidence-based decisions.

An African man standing in front of a no smoking poster

Building on a legacy of work for tobacco control

IDRC-supported projects and impact have continued to grow since the Centre’s initial focus on small grants in 1994.

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A woman's hand holding a lit cigarette

Using taxation to lower tobacco’s global toll

Taxation policy is one of the most powerful tools governments can use to reduce smoking-related illnesses and death and to curb the enormous healthcare costs they produce.

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Learn more about IDRC's investment in tobacco control research