The public health rewards of smoke-free policies are well documented. But in their enthusiasm to achieve such policies, public health advocates and policymakers frequently underestimate the political complexity of passing laws, and then implementing and enforcing them. Using 12 African countries as the focus of discussion, this research examines the basic political process for and the barriers to achieving smoke-free policies. Moreover, in addition to the obstacles, it examines why some countries have been experiencing comparatively more success in the smoke-free policy area. The findings of the research suggest strongly that the presence of a vigorous tobacco control civil society movement, some will on the part of government institutions, and active research support contribute significantly to successful smoke-free policies. It is also apparent that the emerging battle fronts in smoke-free policies are in the areas of implementation and enforcement, and while similar variables that affect the passing of new laws also condition these outcomes, there are the added distinct challenges of policy fatigue and additional resource constraints.