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Children’s Rights and Tobacco Control

tobacco control

Announcement: Dataset on Children's Rights and Tobacco Control: CRC State Reports (Open Access)

This data set has been developed as part of a three-year study into children's rights and tobacco control carried out at the Groningen Centre for Health Law of the University of Groningen and is financed by the Dutch Cancer Society.

Contributors: M.E.C. Gispen, J.V. Veraldi, M.A. Beyer, N. Rusli, and B.C.A. Toebes. All rights reserved. For further information, contact

Children’s Rights and Tobacco Control

According to the World Health Organization ( WHO ), tobacco kills nearly six million people a year, including more than 600,000 non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke. Research indicates that 90% of adult smokers begin while in their teens, or earlier, while two-thirds become regular, daily smokers before they reach the age of 19. In the Netherlands, 23% of the adult population and 9% of adolescents smoke on a daily basis. Yet, apart from early initiation/and or figures of children consuming tobacco, studies indicate that children are particularly vulnerable throughout the entire tobacco supply/demand chain.

Children are often forced to work on tobacco farms and extensive exposure to tobacco leaves makes them susceptible to nicotine poisoning (Green Tobacco Sickness). Children are targeted by the tobacco industry as ‘replacement smokers’. Peer pressure and the inability to oversee all long term health consequences make them particularly vulnerable. Young children breathe faster and are increasingly exposed to secondhand smoke if on the lap or in the arms of smoking caretakers.

The negative consequences of the use of tobacco products raise various questions in relation to human rights protection throughout the entire value-chain of tobacco. On the basis of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), many countries introduce trade, tax, and public health related measures including plain packaging and public and private smoking bans to diminish this major public health crisis. The question is, however, whether, and if yes to what extent, children’s rights justify and require states to take evidence-based child-specific tobacco control measures, which go beyond the minimum requirements set out in the FCTC. If such a basis could be identified, subsequent questions include: who would bear what responsibilities on the basis of such legal basis, and how would these obligations relate to other aspects of human rights protection?

The project has three interconnected goals:

  • Identifying and analysing the rights of children in the tobacco-value chain, specifically in relation to smoking and protection against tobacco smoke exposure (secondhand smoke)
  • Generating new knowledge on tobacco control regulation in Europe
  • Creating a European Scientific Network on Law and Tobacco (ESNLT)

This project is carried out by Dr. Marie Elske Gispen, and Prof. Brigit Toebes. The three-year project is carried out with a grant from the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF). A full list of our publications and activities relating to this project can be found below.

Marie Elske Gispen (l) and Brigit Toebes, © Kees van de Veen
Marie Elske Gispen (l) and Brigit Toebes, © Kees van de Veen

Steering group

Prof. dr. Marcel Brus, University of Groningen, Department of International Law
Prof. dr. Anton Kunst, University Medical Centre Amsterdam, Institute of Social Medicine
Prof. dr. Ton Liefaard, University of Leiden, Department of Private Law and Juvenile Justice
Dr. Heleen Weyers, University of Groningen, Department of Legal Theory

International Advisory Board

Prof. Gian Luca Burci, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies Geneva
Mr. Eric Lindblom, Georgetown University, Georgetown Law, O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law
Dr. Allyn Taylor, University of Washington, School of Law


M.E.C. Gispen and B.C.A. Toebes, "The Human Rights of Children in Tobacco Control" Human Rights Quarterly (Accepted, will be published in May 2019 issue)

M.E.C. Gispen and J.V. Veraldi, 'A human rights approach to the regulation of electronic cigarettes', in L Gruszczynski (ed.), Regulation of electronic nicotine delivery systems (e-cigarettes): national and international legal challenges (Edward Elgar publishing forthcoming 2019)

M.E.C. Gispen, Expanding smoking bans in public spaces in light of international law (GHLG Blog, 13 August 2018)

Brigit Toebes, Human Rights and the Tobacco Industry: An Unsuitable Alliance, (2018) x(x) International Journal of Health Policy Management 1

Brigit Toebes, Tabaksbeleggingen op gespannen voet met internationale standaarden, Blog Post Global Health Law Groningen, 2 January 2018

Brigit Toebes, Marlies Hesselman, Jitse P. Van Dijk and Joost Herman, Curbing the Lifestyle Pandemic: making progress on an interdisciplinary research agenda for law and policy interventions BMC International Health and Human Rights, 2017; 17: 25

Brigit Toebes, Marie Elske Gispen, Jasper Been, and Sheikh Aziz, ‘A Missing Voice: The Human Rights of Children to a Tobacco-Free Environment’, Tobacco Control, Vol. 72, issue 1, 2017

Aart Hendriks and Brigit Toebes, Moet ik mijn patiënt wijzen op de gevaren van roken? (Do I have to inform my patient about the risks of smoking?), Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde, 2017; 161: D1869

Marie Elske Gispen and Brigit Toebes, Kinderrechten voor een Rookvrije Omgeving [Children’s rights for a Smoke-free Environment] (Internal policy note Dutch Cancer Society), mei 2017

Brigit Toebes en Antenor Hallo de Wolf, Niet vergiftigd worden is een mensenrecht (It is a human right not to be poisoned), NRC Handelsblad (Opinie), 22 april 2017

Karapetian, Gohar, The Hague Court ruling of 14-09-2016: ‘Article 8(2) of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control does not imply a ‘Total Smoking Ban’ (GHLG Blog Post), posted 22 September 2016

Brigit Toebes, Plain tobacco packaging: where is the Netherlands? (blog post), posted 23 June 2016

Bantema, Willem, and Brigit Toebes, Tobacco control legislation in the Netherlands, IASLC Lung Cancer News, June 2016, June 2016

Toebes, Brigit, Court Decision in the Dutch Case concerning the close ties between the Dutch Government and the tobacco industry (GHLG Blog Post), posted 12 November 2015

Toebes, Brigit, video on access to medicines and tobacco control, 2015

Toebes, Brigit, ‘Tabakszaak tegen Nederland: nauwe banden tussen overheid en tabaksindustrie’ [Tobacco case against the Netherlands – the close ties between government and the tobacco industry], Nederlands Juristenblad NJB, Vol. 90, 30 October 2015, 2606-2611


Marie Elske Gispen, presentation in Aletta Talent Network, Groningen, International Perspectives on Children's Rights in Tobacco Control, 22 November 2018

Brigit Toebes, interview with Reformatorisch Dagblad, Pakje sigaretten van 10 euro helpt zeker in strijd tegen roken, 19 October 2018

Brigit Toebes, interview with Volkskrant, 18 October 2018

Brigit Toebes, Masterclass for Healthy Ageing Week, Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health, Grote Markt Groningen, 9 October 2018, Meer Gezonde Jaren

Marie Elske Gispen, presentation in World Cancer Congress, Kuala Lumpur, Human Rights as basis for health prevention and promotion: lessons learned from children's rights and tobacco control, 1-4 October 2018

Marie Elske Gispen, Workshop on Children's Rights and Tobacco Control organized by Unfair Tobacco, Berlin, Tobacco Control in the CRC, 12 September 2018

Marie Elske Gispen, interview with RTL Nieuws, Smoking Bans, 3 August 2018

Brigit Toebes, invited lecture in Juridisch Forum, Netherlands Ministry of Health, The Hague, 21 June 2018, Leefstijlziektes en het Internationaal gezondheidsrecht (met Marie Elske Gispen)

Brigit Toebes, lecture and panel presentation in ENSNP - CNPT - European Conference on Tobacco Control, Madrid, 14-16 June 2018, Rights of children to a tobacco-free environment

Marie Elske Gispen, presentation in Utrecht Centre for Accountability and Liability Law, Utrecht, Kinderrechten als graadmeter voor tabak wet-en regelgeving (children's rights as benchmark for tobacco control law and regulation), 18 May 2018

Brigit Toebes, duo-interview with Benedicte Ficq for Alumni Magazine University of Groningen, Met het oog op het kinderrechtenverdrag doet de overheid te weinig om roken te ontmoedigen, 10 March 2018

Marie Elske Gispen, World Conference on Tobacco or Health, Cape Town, Preconference workshop, New Legal Approaches to Tobacco Control, Human rights and tobacco control, 6-9 March 2018

Marie Elske Gispen, World Conference on Tobacco or Health, Cape Town, The vulnerability of children from low SES households suffering from tobacco-related harm in light of human rights and social justice (Poster), 6-9 March 2018

Brigit Toebes, (") interview with Volkskrant, In the war against smoking the ball is now in the court of the Dutch government, 23 February 2018

Brigit Toebes, interview with NOS, Geen zaak tegen tabaksindustrie: 'Andere klacht had meer kans gehad', 22 February 2018

Brigit Toebes, interview met Nieuwsweekend radio 1, Overheid neem verantwoordelijkheid voor het niet roken door kinderen, 10 February 2018

Marie Elske Gispen, De rol van mensenrechten in het beschermen van kwetsbare kinderen tegen roken en meeroken (The role of human rights in protecting vulnerable children against smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke), NNVT Annual conference, Utrecht, 9 February 2018

Brigit Toebes, Het recht van kinderen om op te groeien in een rookvrije leefomgeving, lezing voor Sophie Kinderziekenhuis Rotterdam, 19 January 2018

Brigit Toebes, Human rights and the tobacco industry: an unsuitable alliance, Law and tobacco control in Europe: Legal issues in domestic, EU and international levels (Regional Office WHO, Copenhagen / Norwegian Cancer Society), 2 November 2017

Marie Elske Gispen, presentation at Medical Law and Human Rights Workshop organized within the context of the U4 Network of Groningen, Uppsala, Göttingen and Gent, at Uppsala University, The rights of the child and tobacco-related harm, 24-26 April 2017

Marie Elske Gispen, ‘Vulnerability and health: what use of the concept to protect children against tobacco related health infirmity?’ FRAME workshop on Human Rights and Vulnerability organized at Utrecht University, 5 April 2017

GRIAC Lecture: Brigit Toebes, Tobacco Control: The Power of Law and Policy, Groningen Research Institute for Asthma and COPD (GRIAC, UMCG), 4 April 2017

Marie Elske Gispen, ‘Legal Scholarship in the Field of Tobacco Control in Europe’, ECTOH Network Lunch on Law and Tobacco Control organized by the Norwegian Cancer Society as side-event to the European Conference on Tobacco or Health in Porto, 22-25 March 2017

Marie Elske Gispen, Towards child-proof tobacco control (presentation, European Conference Tobacco or Health, Porto, 22-25 March 2017

Brigit Toebes, The rights of children to a tobacco-free environment (public lecture, University of Bergen, Norway, 13 February 2017

Marie Elske Gispen, Tabak en het recht: een kinderrechtenperspectief [Tobacco and the law: a children's rights perspective] (presentation symposium Dutch network for tobacco related research, Utrecht 10 February 2017

Brigit Toebes, The rights of children to a tobacco-free environment (public lecture, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, 24 oktober 2016

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