Smoke-free Policies

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Call To Action

Considering the demonstrated health and economic benefits, widespread public support, and low cost of implementation, it is vital that governments act to initiate and fully enforce comprehensive smoke-free legislation.

In terms of both countries and population covered, the tobacco control measure with the greatest progress since 2007 has been protecting people from the dangers of tobacco smoke by enacting laws that create smoke-free workplaces and public places. Thirty-two countries, including 26 low- and middle-income counties, adopted complete smoking bans between 2007 and 2012. Since 2007, the population protected by a comprehensive smoke-free law more than quadrupled, as 1.1 billion people (16% of world population) are now protected from the dangers of second-hand smoke. Most of these newly protected people live in middle-income countries, which have taken the lead in passing complete smoke-free laws.

Smoking bans benefit non-smokers and smokers alike: Non-smokers are exposed to significantly less second-hand smoke, while smokers tend to smoke less, have greater cessation success, and experience increased confidence in their ability to quit. These effects are greatest under the strongest bans. When indoor smoking areas are allowed, ventilation is inadequate to eliminate second-hand smoke, due to doorways, leakage, poor maintenance and difficult enforcement, and the reduction in smoking among smokers is smaller.

Elimination of smoking, thus second-hand smoke, also eliminates the formation of third-hand smoke from the environment. The latter—residual nicotine and other chemicals left on surfaces by tobacco smoke—can linger for months, and is not amenable to normal cleaning.

All combustible tobacco products must be covered for a policy to be comprehensive. The use of e-cigarettes and water pipes pose ongoing legislative challenges, with some countries opting to include these in smoke-free legislation (See E-cigarettes and Water Pipes).


Smoke-free urban agglomerations, 2012; Highest level of achievement in protecting people from tobacco smoke in the world’s biggest cities and urban agglomerations

Smoke-free laws

Smoke-free legislation by income level; High, middle, low income countries, 2012

Low income countries are behind in this metric. It is surprising that middle income countries are doing better than high income countries.

Only 16% of the world’s population is covered by comprehensive smoke-free laws.


Sochi, Russian Federation

Smoking was forbidden in all enclosed venues of the Games, and on the territory of the Olympic Park, including all bars and restaurants. It was the 14th consecutive smoke-free Olympic Games.


The first three countries to ban smoking in vehicles carrying children were Bahrain, Mauritius, and South Africa.


A ban on smoking in all indoor workplaces can reduce the prevalence of smoking by 6%, and a ban on smoking in all indoor restaurants by 2%.

“100% SMOKE-FREE IS THE ONLY ANSWER. Neither ventilation nor filtration, alone or in combination, can reduce exposure levels of tobacco smoke indoors to levels that are considered acceptable, even in terms of odor, much less health effects.” –World Health Organization, 1997


Support among smokers for smoke-free laws in workplaces and bars is greater than it was among smokers in Ireland before their initially unpopular but very successful smoke-free law was implemented.

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Secondhand Smoke

Smoke-free legislation must be enacted to reduce involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke, especially in children. People should be informed about the risks of secondhand smoke and the potential harms of thirdhand smoke.