The policy challenges of tobacco control: Implications for public and global health

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Social and Political Science


This seminar series will explore challenges in health policy addressing tobacco and alcohol across national and global levels. It will be open to colleagues working in public health and related fields who are interested in developing a shared understanding of key emerging challenges , offering a safe space within which to explore highly contentious issues under the Chatham House rule. It aims to inform the future of public health research and policy by facilitating cross-sector and cross-disciplinary conversations. The programme will be structured as a series of expanding conversations, with one broad theme being explored per year:

  • the commercial sector - including discussions about synergies and tensions between tobacco and alcohol research and policy, defining and regulating the industries, and debates around industry involvement in harm reduction and new products such as e-cigarettes

  • health inequalities - including stigmatisation and inequalities, implications of tax and price measures, and potential impacts of innovative interventions on

  • global governance - including policy coherence across the Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) agenda, the status of tobacco and alcohol in the post- Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) policy agenda, and the UK’s position in global tobacco and alcohol control.




Each event will be informed by relevant research, advocacy and policy communities.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit? The beneficiaries of this series will be knowledge brokers, policymakers, funders and advocates engaged in UK tobacco control, related public health issues (e.g. alcohol and obesity), health inequalities and in global health and development.

Invited participants from tobacco control within the UK will include representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs) such as ASH, ASH Scotland and ASH Wales, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, and relevant officials from the UK Department of Health and from each of the devolved governments. While many of these organisations have a broader remit than tobacco alone, we will also invite additional participants to those seminars focusing particularly on the lessons that tobacco control might offer other areas of public health. (Such invitees will include specific public health advocacy organisations - e.g. Alcohol Focus Scotland and the Institute for Alcohol Studies - and policymakers working on alcohol and food policies.) For seminars focusing on tobacco control and health inequalities, we will invite additional participants engaged in health equity issues - e.g. policymakers responsible for health inequalities across the UK and representatives of CSOs concerned with reducing societal inequalities (e.g. the ONE Society and the Equality Trust).

Within the global health stream, participants invited to relevant sessions will include agencies and organisations for whom tobacco control and global health constitute core concerns (Framework Convention Alliance, International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD) and organisations for which these issues are increasingly significant to future priorities (e.g. UN Development Program). We will also invite representatives from leading philanthropic initiatives (e.g. Bloomberg and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) and from the World Health Organization (WHO).

How will they benefit? The issues being discussed across each of the chosen themes are of policy salience to each of these communities, and many of the difficulties experienced by academics in discussing and addressing these controversies are shared by policymakers, civil society and funders. Each event will include at least one non-academic participant as a speaker or discussant. All sectors will be represented in the development of seminars and will be invited to participate in project outputs and dissemination processes.

Advocates, funders and officials working within tobacco control in the UK will directly benefit from the opportunity to openly explore difficult and contentious issues in a safe context. We feel there will be particular value in engaging with academic researchers on both sides of increasingly heated debates, and with officials and advocates across parts of the UK that attach different priority to particular issues (e.g. harm reduction is currently far more prominent in policy discussions in England and Wales than in Scotland). We anticipate that learning and alliances across different policy communities will be fostered by the opportunity to reflect on the tobacco control experience with others working from broader public and global health perspectives.

The development of a research agenda across the traditional silos of tobacco, alcohol and obesity policy offers particular value to policymakers and CSOs engaged in global health governance. The potential value of such intellectual engagement is highlighted by ongoing changes within the structure of WHO, in which the Tobacco Free Initiative is being combined with departments responsible for alcohol and obesity policy. Organisations with a strong emphasis on tobacco control (e.g. FCA, IUATLD) are likely to substantially contribute to and benefit from open evaluation and debate on issues such as the UK's place in the global tobacco industry; the role of tobacco control in development; and the UK's status within global tobacco control.


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Collin J (2015) Merging alcohol giants threaten global health. in BMJ (Clinical research ed.)
Collin J (2016) Alcohol and the Sustainable Development Goals. in Lancet (London, England)
Description Grant is currently ongoing. We have held five meetings to date, with high levels of participation from academics, policymakers and civil society.
Exploitation Route One of our events led to the development of an international survey on attitudes among public health researchers, policymakers and advocates to engagement with commercial sector actors. This is shaping ongoing discussions within health organisations about how to identify and manage conflict of interest
Sectors Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other
Description Civil society organisations have engaged fully in the seminar series and ideas discussed within it are actively shaping discussions around future policy priorities, approaches to identifying and managing conflict of interest, and possibilities for an increased focus on supply-side approaches to reducing harm attributable to alcohol and tobacco.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Education,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services