Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the world. A human rights approach to ending tobacco is unique because it implores or requires governments to protect their citizens by implementing tobacco control laws and strategies to end the tobacco epidemic based on legally-binding human rights norms.

A human rights approach

Smoking negatively impacts the right to life, right to health, right to education, children’s rights, women’s rights, and many others. For example, the tobacco industry often targets their marketing to specific populations based on gender, race, sexual identity and age. Some of these groups smoke at much higher rates than the general population, and they are all protected by various international and regional human rights treaties and instruments. Read more about targeted advertising to women and girls and the LGBT communities.

Which Human Rights are Implicated?

Right to Life Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death

Right to HealthTobacco use infringes on achieving
the “highest attainable standard of health.”

Protection of Children

Tobacco marketing targets children.

Right to EducationChild labor in tobacco production denies educational opportunities. Money spent on tobacco by poor families cannot be spent on education. Lack of pictorial graphic warning labels is a lack of information and education on the product.

LGBTQI RightsTobacco companies use targeted advertising
to normalize smoking in LGBTQI culture.

Healthy EnvironmentCigarettes impact the environment through
their entire life-cycle, from growing &
manufacturing to second-hand smoke & litter.

Women's RightsTobacco companies use targeted advertising to persuade more women to smoke, and smoking complicates pregnancy.

Work ConditionsSmoking at work (in bars, restaurants, and casinos) negatively impacts the health of all staff and patrons. Tobacco farmers often get sick from nicotine poisoning or Green Tobacco Sickness.

Racial Discrimination

Racial minorities and indigenous people have been heavily targeted by tobacco marketing (for example: 90% of African American smokers use menthol products as a result of targeted advertisements).

Rights of People with Disabilities

ASH’s Accomplishments 

Visit the Resource Hub Here

ASH has been recognized as a leader in the field of tobacco and human rights. Some of our noteworthy work includes:

ASH’s Human Rights Program goals include:

  • Elevating tobacco as a human rights issue through work with the Human Rights Council, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Conference of the Parties (FCTC COP), and other international bodies.
  • Using human rights reporting mechanisms to encourage governments to advance tobacco control within their own countries.
  • Providing legal resources, training, and support to advocates on how to use human rights norms to advance local tobacco control measures.
  • Maintaining a repository of human rights resources to assist our allies in taking a human rights approach. Visit the Resource Hub here.

Connection to other ASH Programs

A human rights approach is deeply ingrained in our other programs of work as well; in fact, our human rights work is a catalyst to speed up the progress of our other programs. Viewing tobacco as a human rights issue will aid in the implementation of the tobacco treaty, the success of our criminal liability program, and in our end goal of no more tobacco deaths. Read more about how all ASH programs intersect.

At ASH, we believe that a human rights approach, encouraging governments to take action to protect their citizens, is an essential catalyst towards a world free from tobacco.