Despite the well-known dangers of tobacco, more than a billion people worldwide still smoke cigarettes. On Thursday, in its first report on global tobacco use and control efforts, the World Health Organization helped shed light on why the number of smokers remains so high. Though tobacco is the world’s leading preventable cause of death—killing an estimated 5.4 million people a year (more than tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria combined)—the WHO report found that, while 152 countries have pledged to implement recommended tobacco-control policies, only a handful have taken strong action already. Governments around the world still take in, on average, more than 500 times as much from tobacco taxes as they spend on tobacco control.

—can governments help turn the tide?