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Smoking Rates May Decline With Higher Tobacco Taxes

If all countries raise excise taxes on tobacco products, smoking rates may decline by up to 9%.

Smoking kills about 6 million people a year, and costs the world more than $1 trillion a year in health care expenses and lost productivity, but billions of dollars and millions of lives could be saved through higher tobacco prices and taxes, according to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US National Cancer Institute.

“The economic impact of tobacco on countries, and the general public, is huge, as this new report shows,” Oleg Chestnov, MD, PhD, the WHO’s assistant director-general for noncommunicable diseases and mental health, said in an agency news release. “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 health care costs on families, communities, and countries.”

Annual tax revenues from cigarettes globally could increase by 47%, or $140 billion, if all countries raised excise taxes by about 80 cents per pack, according to the report.

The report authors predicted this would raise cigarette retail prices an average of 42%, leading to a 9% decline in smoking rates and up to 66 million fewer adult smokers.

Poorer countries suffer the greatest burden from tobacco use. There are 1.1 billion smokers aged 15 years or older worldwide, and 8 out of 10 of them are in low- and middle-income countries.

The research summarized in this report “confirms that evidence-based tobacco control interventions make sense from an economic as well as a public health standpoint,” report co-editor Frank Chaloupka, PhD, professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in the news release.

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