The significance and impact of the Polish Anti-tobacco Law

Mateusz Zatoński, Witold A. Zatoński, Krzysztof Przewoźniak, Marek Jaworski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


By the end of the 1980s Poland was at the brink of a health catastrophe. Cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer mortality steadily increased and were among the highest ever observed in the world. Life expectancy for young adult and middle aged men reached levels similar to China and India. The main cause of this health decline was tobacco smoking. In the 1980s Poland became the country with the highest cigarette consumption in the world and smoking prevalence in both sexes was the highest in Europe. The milestone for tobacco control and health improvement was the Tobacco Control Bill passed by the Polish Sejm on 9 November 1995. The Law enforced a multitude of novel legal measures such as large health warnings on cigarette packs and a complete ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. The legislation was lauded by the WHO as an “example to the rest of the world”. It also contributed to implementing governmental and social solutions that changed the health behaviours of Poles and had a direct effect on health outcomes. Cigarette sales dropped from 104 billion cigarettes in 1990 to 42 billion today. The prevalence of daily smoking declined from 62% in 1982 to 28% in 2014 in men and from 30% to 19% in women. Today, incidence rates for cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer in middle age men are twice lower than in the beginning of 1990s. These changes were also crucial for the substantial improvement of life expectancy in Poland, which increased at one of the fastest rates in the world in the 1990s. Now there is urgent need to formulate a plan for the eradication of smoking in Poland in the next decade and to start striving towards the tobacco endgame.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-35
JournalJournal of Health Inequalities
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2016


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