A new landmark global report from World Health Organisation (WHO) and the National Cancer Institute of the United States of America (USA) has stated that policies to control tobacco use, including tobacco tax and price increases, can generate significant government revenues for health and development work.
It added that such measures can also greatly reduce tobacco use and protect people’s health from the world’s leading killers, such as cancers and heart disease.
According to the report, it states that left unchecked, the tobacco industry and the deadly impact of its products cost the world’s economies more than US$ 1 trillion annually in healthcare expenditures and lost productivity, according to findings published in The economics of tobacco and tobacco control.
Currently, around 6 million people die yearly as a result of tobacco use, with most living in developing countries.
The almost 700-page monograph examines existing evidence on two broad areas:
The economics of tobacco control, including tobacco use and growing, manufacturing and trade, taxes and prices, control policies and other interventions to reduce tobacco use and its consequences; and
The economic implications of global tobacco control efforts.
According to WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) and Mental Health, Dr. Oleg Chestnov, “The economic impact of tobacco on countries, and the general public, is huge, as this new report shows. The tobacco industry produces and markets products that kill millions of people prematurely, rob households of finances that could have been used for food and education, and impose immense healthcare costs on families, communities and countries.”
Globally, there are 1.1 billion tobacco smokers aged 15 or older, with around 80 per cent living in low- and middle-income countries. Approximately 226 million smokers live in poverty.
The monograph, citing a 2016 study, states that annual excise revenues from cigarettes globally could increase by 47 per cent, or US$ 140 billion, if all countries raised excise taxes by about US$ 0.80 per pack. Additionally, this tax increase would raise cigarette retail prices on average by 42 per cent, leading to a 9 per cent decline in smoking rates and up to 66 million fewer adult smokers.
“The research summarized in this monograph confirms that evidence-based tobacco control interventions make sense from an economic as well as a public health standpoint,” says the monograph’s co-editor, Distinguished Professor Frank Chaloupka, of the Department of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The major conclusions of the monograph include that the global health and economic burden of tobacco use is enormous and is increasingly borne by low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Around 80 per cent of the world’s smokers live in LMICs; Effective policy and programmatic interventions exist to reduce demand for tobacco products and the death, disease, and economic costs resulting from their use, but these interventions are underused. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) provides an evidence-based framework for government action to reduce tobacco use;
Demand reduction policies and programmes for tobacco products are highly cost-effective. Such interventions include significant tobacco tax and price increases; bans on tobacco industry marketing activities; prominent pictorial health warning labels; smoke-free policies and population-wide tobacco cessation programmes to help people stop smoking. In 2013-2014, global tobacco excise taxes generated nearly US$ 269 billion in government revenues. Of this, less than US$ 1 billion was invested in tobacco control.
WHO Director for the Prevention of NCDs, Dr. Douglas Bettcher says the new report gives governments a powerful tool to combat tobacco industry claims that controls on tobacco products adversely impact economies.
“This report shows how lives can be saved and economies can prosper when governments implement cost-effective, proven measures, like significantly increasing taxes and prices on tobacco products, and banning tobacco marketing and smoking in public,” Bttcher says.