Criminology Social Control of Tobacco Use
Kirsten Bell
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 February 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 February 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0196


Efforts to control the use of tobacco via both formal and informal social mechanisms have been a feature of much of its history, and a vast body of literature is devoted to this topic. In light of the well-documented health consequences of smoking, it will most likely come as little surprise to the reader that the majority of this literature has emerged from the field of public health. Indeed, the study of tobacco use and how to control its consumption has spawned its own distinct subfield: tobacco control. Much of the literature produced by this field is devoted to studies aiming to evaluate the effects of tobacco control policies (e.g., media campaigns, smoking bans, taxation, and advertising) on smoking incidence, prevalence, and cigarette consumption, and how to facilitate their expanded implementation. In the interests of keeping the bibliography contained, I have prioritized accounts that look beyond the health effects of efforts to control tobacco use and consider this topic from a perspective that focuses on the social effects of such interventions. Although few criminologists have written about tobacco use, a number of legal scholars, ethicists, sociologists, anthropologists, and historians have examined the social aspects of tobacco usage and control.

General Overviews

A key resource on tobacco control policies and approaches is the journal Tobacco Control, which provides a good orientation to the research being undertaken in this area. Several documents have also been particularly influential in setting national and international tobacco control agendas: the California Department of Health Services 1998 has been widely taken up as an international model, and the World Health Organization 2003 has also served to change the face of tobacco control policy at a global level with the adoption of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (World Health Organization 2003). The World Health Organization (WHO) also releases a series of annual reports that detail the interventions and approaches it endorses: WHO Reports on the Global Tobacco Epidemic.

  • California Department of Health Services. 1998. A model for change: The California experience in tobacco control. Sacramento: California Department of Health Services Tobacco Control Section.

    The California tobacco control strategy has been widely taken up as an international model of tobacco control. Its influence is evident in the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (World Health Organization 2003).

  • Tobacco Control.

    As its name suggests, this is the key tobacco control journal and a primary resource for anyone interested in the field of tobacco control.

  • World Health Organization. WHO Reports on the Global Tobacco Epidemic. Geneva, Switzerland.

    These reports provide an overview of the WHO-endorsed approaches to tobacco control. Each document focuses on a different intervention, and the series includes reports on the “Mpower” approach, implementing smoke-free environments, warning about the dangers of tobacco, enforcing advertising and promotion bans, and raising taxes on tobacco.

  • World Health Organization. 2003. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO.

    The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization. Party countries (180 at the time of writing) are expected to meet certain standards in their tobacco control efforts in areas including taxation, smoke-free legislation, packaging and labeling, anti-smoking campaigns, and tobacco advertising.

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