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.

  • Lifetobacco is the leading cause of preventable death
  • Children: tobacco marketing targets youth.
  • Health: Tobacco use infringes on achieving the “highest attainable standard of health.”
  • 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: Tobacco companies use targeted advertising to normalize smoking in LGBTQI culture.
  • Environment: Cigarettes impact the environment through their entire life-cycle, from growing & manufacturing to second-hand smoke & litter.
  • Women: complicates pregnancy.
  • Work Conditions: smoking at work impacts the health of all. Tobacco farmers often get sick from nicotine poisoning or Green Tobacco Sickness.
  • Racial Minorities & Indigenous People: Heavily targeted by tobacco marketing (90% of African American smokers use menthol products).

ASH’s Accomplishments 

See our Human Rights Resources Webpage

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.

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.