Tobacco control expertise

I am a cultural anthropologist specialized in research about tobacco control, the tobacco world market, corporate misconduct and human rights abuses. As a co-founder of Unfairtobacco in May 2004, my tobacco control expertise spans more than 15 years. Unfairtobacco was honoured with a World No Tobacco Day Award by the World Health Organization in 2017: “In its partnerships and collaborations, your organization builds bridges between various areas and the people working in tobacco control, sustainable development and public health and trade agreements.”

Research focus

  • Development and human rights challenges in tobacco farming
  • Child labour in tobacco production
  • Cigarette companies’ misconduct regarding tobacco advertising (targeting youth)
  • Human rights due diligence
  • Human rights and tobacco control in general (including the human right to health)
  • Political interference, lobbying and Corporate Social Responsibility of tobacco companies
  • Tobacco industry’s use of free trade agreements and Investor-State Dispute Settlement measures (ISDS)
  • Tobacco consumption and production as a challenge to the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs)

Research methods

  • Interviews and participant observation
  • Analysis of peer-reviewed literature
  • Analysis of data provided by FAOSTAT, COMTRADE and others
  • Analysis of newspaper articles and documents such as companies’ annual reports and extracts of commercial registers, including internal tobacco industry documents

Recent media appearances

February 2016, Deutschlandfunk Nova: Eine Stunde Talk (one hour talk programme about me and my advocacy for the regulation of tobacco industry; German only)

November 2016, Bayern 2: Heat Not Burn – Die Zukunft des Rauchens (programme about e-cigarettes and the tobacco industry, my contribution was a description of tobacco industry marketing strategies; German only)


Graen, Laura 2019: New avenues for tobacco control: Links to sustainable development and human rights. In: “European tobacco use: Trends report 2019”. World Health Organization Europe. Copenhagen, Denmark.

Graen, Laura 2018: Tobacco industry: Truly transformed or using SDGs as a smokescreen for old strategies? In: “Analysis: Highjacking the SDGs? The Private Sector and the Sustainable Development Goals”. Brot für die Welt, German NGO Forum on Environment and Development, Unfairtobacco, Global Policy Forum and MISEREOR. Berlin, Germany.

Graen, Laura 2018: Does tobacco control harm tobacco growers? In: Tobacco Control Playbook. World Health Organization Europe. Copenhagen, Denmark.

Graen, Laura 2017: Tobacco | Decent work: How tobacco control contributes to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 8. SDG-Factsheet No. 4. Unfairtobacco.

Graen, Laura 2017: Tobacco | Education: How tobacco control contributes to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4. SDG-Factsheet No. 3. Unfairtobacco.

Graen, Laura 2016: Ungenutzte Ressourcen: Tabaksteuern und nachhaltige Entwicklung. Unfairtobacco.
(English translation coming soon. Title: Untapped resources: tobacco taxes and sustainable development)

Graen, Laura 2016: Tobacco and global Partnership: How tobacco control and development goal 17 fit together. SDG-Factsheet No. 2. Unfairtobacco.

Graen, Laura 2016: Tobacco | Poverty | Hunger: How Tobacco Control can contribute to achieving Development Goals 1 and 2. SDG-Factsheet No. 1. Unfairtobacco.

Koivusalo, Meri; Graen, Laura 2016: New ISDS proposal changes to the TTIP are not sufficient to protect public health. Factsheet. Health and Trade Network.

Graen, Laura 2015: Strategien der Tabakindustrie: Werbekampagnen, Klagen, politische Einflussnahme. Unfairtobacco. (English: Tobacco industry strategies: Marketing campaigns, legal challenges, political interference.)

Graen, Laura 2015: Tobacco industry confronted with child labour. In: TC News and Views Online. BMJ Tobacco Control Blog.

Graen, Laura 2014: Doppelte Last. Tabak im Globalen Süden. Unfairtobacco. (English: Double burden. Tobacco in the Global South.)

Otanez, Marty; Graen, Laura 2014: ‘Gentlemen, Why not Suppress the Prices?’ Global Leaf Demand and Rural Livelihoods in Malawi. In: Leppan, Wardie; Lecours, Natacha; Buckles, Daniel (editors): Tobacco Control and Tobacco Farming. Separating Myth from Reality. IDRC and Anthem Press.

Graen, Laura 2014: Tabakproduktion in Afrika. Knebelverträge im Trend. Unfairtobacco. (English: Tobacco production in Africa. Growing trend of adhesion contracts.)

Graen, Laura 2012: Opening Malawi’s tobacco black box. A study in economic anthropology. Magisterarbeit (MA thesis). Department of Anthropology and Philosophy, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany.

Graen, Laura 2012: How is it like to be a tobacco worker in Malawi? (video clip). Unfairtobacco.

Graen, Laura; Otañez, Marty 2010: Malawi: Tobacco Versus Development. In: Bulletin of the Framework Convention Alliance. Issue 110.

Graen, Laura 2010: Zeit zu Handeln: Factsheet über institutionelle und individuelle Handlungsoptionen. Unfairtobacco.

Graen, Laura 2009: Soziale Lage der Tabakbauern und Pachtarbeiter am Beispiel Malawi. In: Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum (ed.): Umweltrisiko Tabak – von der Pflanze zur Kippe. Heidelberg 2009: p. 35 (Additional contribution: pictures on p. 17f)

Graen, Laura; Otañez, Marty 2009: Factsheet on Child Labour in Malawi’s Tobacco Sector.

Graen, Laura 2009: Kodi mtengo wa fodya ndi chiyani? Was ist der Preis des Tabaks? Audio feature on tobacco workers’ rights violations in Malawi. Unfairtobacco. Published on CD.

Unfairtobacco 2009: Exhibition “Big Tobacco” (Co-conceptualization, contribution of pictures and texts)