Tripling tobacco tax could prevent 200 million early deaths

The move would reduce the number of cigarettes smoked by a third and at the same time increase revenues for governments, which could be used for enhanced healthcare.
Posted By Ananth Baliga  |  Jan. 2, 2014 at 10:14 AM
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The tripling of tobacco taxes across the world could lead to 200 million fewer early deaths this century from cancer and other smoking-related diseases.

The review of 63 research papers on the causes and consequences of tobacco use in different countries was conducted by Cancer Research U.K., a charity organization working on cancer research, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The authors said raising taxes by a fixed large amount would raise the cost of even cheaper brands, thereby encouraging people to give up smoking rather than move to a lower-cost brand.

This would be an effective step in low- and middle-income countries where the cost of cigarettes are relatively cheap, as well as richer countries like France, where cigarette consumption has halved from 1990 to 2005 due to a raise in taxes.

“Globally, about half of all young men and one in ten of all young women become smokers, and, particularly in developing countries, relatively few quit. If they keep smoking, about half will be killed by it, but if they stop before 40, they’ll reduce their risk of dying from tobacco by 90 percent,” said study co-author Professor Sir Richard Peto.

Apart from reducing premature deaths from cancer and other chronic diseases, the move would also increase government revenues globally by a third, from $300 billion at present to $400 billion a year.

The European Union currently accounts for 300,000 tobacco-related deaths per year and even a doubling of cigarette prices across the EU would prevent 100,000 deaths yearly in people below the age of 70. China consumes nearly a third of the world's cigarettes -- two trillion cigarettes per year, out of a world total of six trillion.

As well as causing lung cancer, which is often fatal, smoking is the largest cause of premature death from chronic conditions including heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.

[Cancer Research UK] [New England Journal of Medicine]

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