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 2004, my tobacco control expertise spans more than 10 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.”

I am also a founding member and board member of the Health and Trade Network that envisions a world where trade agreements are designed to support health and protection measures. In addition to that, I am a board member of the Human Rights and Tobacco Control Network since November 2017.

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 and tobacco control in general
  • 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 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. Master’s 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)