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The Global Tobacco Surveillance System
  1. The GTSS Collaborative Group
  1. Correspondence to:
 Charles W Warren
 PhD, Office on Smoking and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, MS-K50, Atlanta, GA 30341-3717 USA; wcw1{at}cdc.gov

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In December 1998, the World Health Organization’s Tobacco Free Initiative (WHO TFI) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office on Smoking and Health (CDC OSH) convened a meeting to discuss the need for collecting data on tobacco use among adults and adolescents. In addition to WHO and CDC, at least one country representative from each of the six WHO Regions and other international agencies, such as UNICEF and the World Bank, attended the meeting. The groups reached consensus on several points.

First, consistent cross-country data did not exist regarding questionnaire content, sampling methodology, and data analysis. This was true for adults and adolescents. Many individual countries (especially developed countries) had good surveillance systems in place for adult data (see Tobacco Control Country Profiles, volumes I and II), some countries had systems in place for data on adolescents (for example, Australia, Canada, Thailand, and the United States), but only a very few cross-country systems were in place and most of these were in Western Europe (for example, Health Behaviour in School Aged Children [HBSC] and the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Drugs [ESPAD]).

Second, cross-country data for adolescents was a top priority. WHO and CDC made the commitment to support the development of a Global Tobacco Surveillance System (GTSS) and launched the first component of the system, the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS).

Third, the GTSS surveys would include a “core” set of questions (with country-specific questions included where appropriate), identical sampling methodology, and consistent field procedures and data management.

The GYTS, a school-based survey of students aged 13–15, was initiated in 1999. By 2005, the GYTS had grown to include 140 countries across all six WHO Regions and more than 40 countries had conducted a second round of the GYTS. In 2000, WHO and …

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