Accessibility statement

Building capacity for applied research to reduce tobacco-related harm in low and middle income countries (LMICs)

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the world. Globally, smoking kills more people every year than HIV, tuberculosis and malaria combined. By 2030, more than 80% of the world's tobacco-related deaths will occur in low and middle income countries (LMICs). Preventing people from starting to use tobacco, and encouraging users to stop, is a global priority. The World Health Organisation is addressing this through an international treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which has been signed by 181 countries and sets out the policies countries should adopt to prevent smoking. The United Nations (UN) sees the FCTC as so important that when it set up 'Sustainable Development Goals' (SDG) it included the FCTC in Goal 3, which is about improving health and wellbeing for all the world's people. Goal 3.10 says that the implementation of the FCTC should be strengthened in all countries. 

However, while a number of high income countries (HICs) have made good progress in FCTC implementation, this is not the case in all LMICs. Signing the treaty is not enough: governments need to be helped to introduce good policies and enforce them. However, few LMICs have the capacity, or in some cases the staff with the right skills, to carry out the research and advocacy necessary to design, implement and achieve compliance with good tobacco control policies. Also, most existing research on tobacco has been conducted in HICs, and is not always relevant to LMICs. Thus we need to train and support researchers in tobacco prevention in LMICs, with skills in economics, clinical medicine, public health and the social sciences, for example.

This proposal is about filling these gaps, building on some good work already under way. Our proposed programme will be undertaken in two parts of the world (South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa) where progress on tobacco control has not always been good, and where the tobacco industry is active in attempting to undermine measures that work. We propose to build research capacity in several LMICs, through a programme of research designed to address local priorities in each country, supported by a programme of training in research and impact. It will focus in particular on three issues relevant to UN SDG 3 but also other UN goals on peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16) and partnerships (SDG 17). These are:

  • tobacco taxation (which helps reduce tobacco use and provides money for governments to build the economy)
  • preventing illicit trade in tobacco (by protecting tax revenue, reducing corruption and helping to reduce crime)
  • preventing tobacco industry interference (which aims to prevent or undermine national implementation of FCTC measures). 

Studies will be conducted on these topics as well as additional priorities chosen by countries (like building evidence for 'smokefree' clean air policies, putting health warnings on tobacco packets and services to help people stop smoking).


Funder: MRC Global Challenges Research Fund
Start Date April 2017
End Date March 2021


Internal Staff

External Partners

  • Linda Bauld, University of Stirling
  • John Britton, University of Nottingham
  • Andrew Fogarty, University of Nottingham
  • Jeff Collin, University of Edinburgh
  • Anna Gilmore, University of Bath
  • Ann McNeill, King's College London
  • Rumana Huque, ARK Foundation, Bangladesh
  • Umberton Alessandro, MRC Unit, The Gambia
  • Ellis Owusu-Dabo, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, Ghana
  • Muralidhar Kulkarni, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, India
  • Monika Arora, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI)
  • Corne Van Walbeek, University of Cape Town
  • Wakgari Amente, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
  • Kellen Namusisi, Makerere University, Uganda

Public Health and Society Research in the Department of Health Sciences