The European Network for Smoking Prevention (ENSP) provided a grant to Luk Joossens for a project to measure tobacco control activity at country level in Europe. A questionnaire was drafted then finalised with feedback from a panel of ten experts, international tobacco control researchers and specialists. In 2004, the questionnaire was sent to correspondents in 28 European countries who had agreed to fill in their country data.


Although the original intention of the project was simply to describe current tobacco control policies in Europe, it seemed worthwhile trying to quantify these policies to be able to compare countries systematically. However, while there was evidence which told us broadly which tobacco control measures was effective, it was not easy to decide what weight should be given to each policy measure in a scale. Ideally this would have been decided by the size of the effect of a policy measure, but relatively little rigorous research on the effectiveness of tobacco control policy existed at the time, and such research that did exist was not precise enough to permit easy comparisons between countries. Therefore, to score the questionnaire and create the scale we had to assign scores to each tobacco control policy. To do this we convened an international panel of ten experts to agree the allocation of points to the scale.

In 2005, Martin Raw joined the scoring project of tobacco control policies. The objective was to repeat the collection of data, but to do it in a more systematic and scientific manner with the intention to have the methodology published in and approved by a scientific journal. In summer 2005, the questionnaire survey was repeated, this time with 30 European countries: the previous 28 plus two accession countries, Bulgaria, and Romania. Data were collected using the 2004 questionnaire, but stricter definitions were applied in the scale to smoke-free places and smoking treatment systems. The report was submitted by Luk Joossens and Martin Raw to the Tobacco Control journal which published the article in May 2006. 


In 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016 new editions of the Tobacco Control Scale were published under the auspices of the Association of European Cancer leagues. The results were presented each time at the European Conferences on Tobacco or Health (ECTOH) in Basel (2007), Amsterdam (2011), Istanbul (2014) and Porto (2017). In 2019, Esteve Fernandez and Ariadna Feliu, tobacco control experts from the WHO Collaborating Centre for Tobacco Control of the Institut Català d’Oncologia joined Luk Joossens to conduct the 2019 and future editions of the scale.  


In December 2021, Smoke Free Partnership agreed to oversee and publish the Tobacco Control Scale in 2022.

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