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Tobacco use kills more people annually than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. Unless action is taken, tobacco-related diseases will kill hundreds of millions more in coming decades, mostly in low- and middle-income countries. Beyond its effects on morbidity and mortality, tobacco use has dramatic social and economic consequences, consuming healthcare budgets, robbing families of their primary wage earners, and hindering economic development. Tobacco consumption is shifting from industrialized to developing countries, spurred by rising incomes, trade liberalization, and intensive marketing.

Although Congress empowered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco domestically, the United States has failed to lead globally. The United States is among a small minority of countries that has signed, but not ratified, the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. A tiny percentage of U.S. funding for global health is dedicated to international tobacco control. U.S. trade policy has supported and enabled the industry to expand tobacco use overseas. In this Commentary, we argue for robust U.S. engagement in global tobacco control, first explaining why it is in the national interest of the United States and then suggesting a comprehensive strategy for supporting tobacco control in low- and middle-income countries.

Publication Citation

304 JAMA 2637-2638 (2010)