WHO wants cigarettes tax raised to save more lives

By Caribbean Medical News Staff

May 31st marked World Tobacco Day and the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for the tax on cigarettes to be raised to save more lives.

In fact, WHO says that if tobacco taxes were increased by 50%, there would be a reduction in smoking by some 49% over a three year period possibly saving up to as many as 11 million lives over that time period.  WHO calculates that if all countries increased tobacco taxes by 50% per pack, governments would earn an extra US$101 billion in global revenue while reducing deaths and chronic ill-health in populations the world over.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), an international treaty (2005) has been endorsed by 178 parties and is the guiding framework for this philosophy. According to Article 6 of the WHO FCTC, Price and Tax Measures to Reduce the Demand for Tobacco, the FCTC recognizes that “price and tax measures are an effective and important means of reducing tobacco consumption by various segments of the population, in particular young persons”.

According to the world body, Tobacco kills up to half its consumers, wreaking havoc on many lives, reducing productive years of its users and costing billions not only in health care but in losses to businesses.

“Raising taxes on tobacco is the most effective way to reduce use and save lives,” said WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “Determined action on tobacco tax policy hits the industry where it hurts.”

“Taxes go up, deaths come down”

“Price increases are two to three times more effective in reducing tobacco use among young people than among older adults,” said Dr Douglas Bettcher, director of the Department for Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases at WHO. “Tax policy can be divisive, but this is the tax rise everyone can support.

As tobacco taxes go up, death and disease go down,” Bettcher continued.
“These additional funds could – and should – be used to advance health and other social programmes.”

France increased its tax on cigarettes and saw a commensurate drop in sales by more than fifty percent while deaths from tobacco use also dropped. Similarly, The Philippines also increased taxes and expects to use the revenue on other social services to benefit its citizens.

Approximately 8 million people die of tobacco related illness including lung cancer annually across the world. Approximately over 500 000 die of second-hand smoke related illnesses.

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