Article Text

Download PDFPDF

A missing voice: the human rights of children to a tobacco-free environment
  1. Brigit Toebes1,
  2. Marie Elske Gispen1,
  3. Jasper V Been2,3,
  4. Aziz Sheikh3,4
  1. 1 Department of International Law, Faculty of Law, Global Health Law Groningen Research Centre, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
  2. 2 Department of Pediatrics, and Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Division of Neonatology, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  3. 3 Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research, Centre of Medical Informatics, Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  4. 4 Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care, Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Brigit Toebes, Brigit Toebes Global Health Law Groningen Research Centre, Department of International Law, Faculty of Law, University of Groningen, PO Box 716, Groningen 9700 AS, The Netherlands; b.c.a.toebes{at}


In this commentary, we flag the importance of taking a child-rights approach in the context of tobacco control, which is thus far unprecedented. This text was written in response to the Seventh Conference of States Parties of WHOs Framework Convention on Tobacco Control held in India from 7 to 12 November 2016.

While the links between tobacco control and human rights were emphasised at this conference, a child-rights approach was missing. We argue that this novel angle provides important legal tools to protect the health and well-being of children. Because children are seen as ‘replacement smokers’ by the tobacco industry, protecting children in this context is key to haltering the devastating effects of tobacco use and exposure worldwide.

  • end game
  • human rights
  • litigation
  • secondhand smoke
  • tobacco industry

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Contributors BT conducted the underlying research and took care of the overall drafting of the text. She carries overall responsibility for the text and accepts full responsibility for the finished text. MEG contributed to the research and to the text, and she took care of the endnotes. JVB contributed to the research and to the written text and took care of the endnotes, together with MEG. AS gave extensive feedback to the text on a number of occasions.

  • Funding BT and MEG are supported by a research grant of the Dutch Cancer Society. JVB is supported by personal fellowships from the Erasmus Medical Centre and the Netherlands Lung Foundation. AS is supported by the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.