The use of law and policy to limit tobacco consumption illustrates one of the greatest triumphs of public health in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, as well as one of its most fundamental failures. Overall decreases in tobacco consumption throughout the developed world represent millions of saved lives and unquantifiable suffering averted. Yet those benefits have not been equally distributed. The poor and the undereducated have enjoyed fewer of the gains. In this review, we build on existing tobacco control scholarship and expand it both conceptually and comparatively. Our focus is the social gradient of smoking both within and across borders and how policy makers have been most effective in limiting smoking prevalence among the more privileged segments of society. To illustrate that point, we reference a range of literature on tobacco taxation, advertising, and public smoking in five economically advanced democracies—France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States—and four less developed nations—India, China, Brazil, and South Africa—that together comprise 40% of the world's population.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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