The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on governments globally to increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products in the fight to curb the global smoking epidemic, which is responsible for about six million deaths a year.
“Raising taxes on tobacco products is one of the most effective and cost effective ways to reduce consumption of products that kill,” says Margaret Chan, WHO director-general.
Similarly, Douglas Bettcher, WHO director for the prevention of non-communicable diseases, says “evidence from countries such as China and France shows that higher tobacco product prices linked to increased taxes lead to declines in smoking prevalence and tobacco-related harm, such as lung cancer deaths”.
In its 2015 report on the global tobacco epidemic, the WHO says research shows that a 10% price increase will decrease tobacco use on average by 4% in high-income nations, and by 5% in low-income and middle-income countries.
In the United States, between 1990 and 2014, cigarettes prices rose by nearly 350% because of five-fold increases in state taxes and six-fold increases in the national cigarette tax, and the percentage of adults who smoke fell by nearly one-third.
But the report concludes that in 2014 only 11 countries had increased taxes to represent more than 75% of the retail price, joining the other 22 nations that had similarly high taxes in place in 2008.
The WHO also calls for the strengthening of other effective control measures, including bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, warning labels and enforcement of smoking bans in public places including for e-cigarettes.