The tobacco control field comprises the activity of disparate health, policy and legal research and reform advocacy bodies across the world. These took time to coalesce into a sufficiently organised coalition to advance such measures as the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and the first article of the first edition of the Tobacco Control journal suggested that developing as a diffusely organised movement was indeed necessary in order to bring about effective action to address the health effects of tobacco use.


The tobacco control movement has also been referred to as an anti-smoking movement by some who disagree with the movement, as documented in internal tobacco industry memoranda.

The early history of tobacco control

The first attempts to respond to the health consequences to tobacco use followed soon after the introduction of tobacco to Europe. Pope Urban VII's thirteen-day papal reign included the world's first known tobacco use restrictions in 1590 when he threatened to excommunicate anyone who "took tobacco in the porchway of or inside a church, whether it be by chewing it, smoking it with a pipe or sniffing it in powdered form through the nose". The earliest citywide European smoking restrictions were enacted in Bavaria, Kursachsen, and certain parts of Austria in the late 17th century.

In Britain, a response to the still-new habit of smoking met royal opposition in 1604, when King James I wrote A Counterblaste to Tobacco, describing smoking as: "A custome loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmeful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomeless." His commentary was accompanied by a doctor of the same period, writing under the pseudonym "Philaretes", who as well as explaining tobacco's harmful effects under the system of the four humours ascribed an infernal motive to its introduction, explaining his dislike of tobacco as grounded upon eight 'principal reasons and arguments' (in their original spelling):

  • First, that in their use and custom, no method or order is observed. Diversitie and distinction of persons, times and seasons considered.
  • Secondly, for that it is in qualitie and complexion more hot and drye then may be conveniently used dayly of any man: much lesse of the hot and cholerique constitution.
  • Thirdly, for that it is experimented and tried to be a most strong and violent purge.
  • Fourthly, for that it witherete and drieth up naturall moisture in our bodies, thereby causing sterrilitie and barrennesses: In which respect it seemeth an enemy to the continuance and propagacion of mankinde.
  • Fiftly, for that it decayeth and dissipateh naturall heate, that kindly warmeth in us, and thereby is cause of crudities and rewmes, occasions of infinite maladies.
  • Sixtly, for that this herb is rather weeed, seemethe not voide of venome and poison, and thereby seemeth an enemy to the lyfe of man.
  • Seventhly, for that the first author and finder hereof was the Divell, and the first practisers of the same were the Divells Preiests, and therefore not to be used of us Christians.
  • Last of all, because it is a great augmentor of all sorts of melancholie in our bodies, a humor fit to prepare our bodies to receave the prestigations and hellih illusions and impressions of the Divell himselfe: in so much that many Phisitions and learned mean doe hold this humour to be the verie seate of the Divell in bodies possessed.

Later in the seventeenth century, Sir Francis Bacon identified the addictive consequences of tobacco use, observing that it "is growing greatly and conquers men with a certain secret pleasure, so that those who have once become accustomed thereto can later hardly be restrained therefrom".

Smoking was forbidden in Berlin in 1723, in Königsberg in 1742, and in Stettin in 1744. These restrictions were repealed in the revolutions of 1848. In 1930s Germany, scientific research for the first time revealed a connection between lung cancer and smoking, so the use of cigarettes and smoking was strongly discouraged by a heavy government sponsored anti-smoking campaign.