Making a Human Right to Tobacco Control: Expert and Advocacy Networks, Framing and the Right to Health

David Reubi, 2012, Global Public Health, 7, Sup. 2, S176-S190.

This article addresses the proliferation of human rights in international public health over the last 20 years by examining recent attempts at framing the global smoking epidemic as a human rights problem. Rather than advocating in favour or against human rights-based approaches, the article purports to understand how and why such approaches are being articulated and disseminated. First, it argues that the representation of the global smoking epidemic as a human rights issue has been the product of a small, international network of public health experts and lawyers: the human rights and tobacco control collective or community (HTC). The article describes in particular the HTC’s membership, its style of thinking and its efforts to articulate and disseminate human rights based approaches to tobacco control. Second, the article argues that the aim of the HTC when framing tobacco control as a human rights issue was not to generate public attention for and the political will to tackle the global smoking epidemic, as the literature on framing and human rights presupposes. Instead, as the article shows, the HTC framed tobacco control as a human rights problem to tap into the powerful, judicial monitoring and enforceability mechanisms that make up international human rights.