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Higher tobacco taxes ‘could save lives’

By Martin Banks – 3rd May 2012

Reliable scientific data is essential

Patricia Reilly

An international group of health economists and tobacco control experts have demanded a “radical increase” in the taxation of all tobacco products.

Speaking at a Brussels conference, they said this was the “most effective” way to make them inaccessible to European consumers.

The demand is one of a series of 15 policy recommendations addressed to the commission and member states by the Pricing Policies and Control of Tobacco in Europe (PPACTE) consortium.
They were unveiled at an event at the permanent representation of Ireland to the EU which brought together council officials, commission representatives and MEPs as well as the tobacco control community.
They also recommend that there be “full alignment” of tax rates so that fine-cut tobacco for roll-your-own cigarettes is taxed at the same rate as manufactured cigarettes.
Other recommendations include banning the sale of cigarettes below cost and low-price-based marketing.
The recommendations are timed to coincide with the on-going review of the EU tobacco products directive.

Luke Clancy, director general of the Tobacco Free Research Institute and coordinator of the PPACTE consortium, was among the speakers.

He said, “Through the research surveys that we have conducted, we found that there is a high level of support from European citizens for substantial increases in tobacco taxes particularly if some of the revenue is used for the treatment of tobacco dependence.”

Further comment came from Patricia Reilly, a member of the cabinet of European commissioner for research, innovation and science, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn.

He said, “I very much welcome the publication of this research project, which is funded under the commission’s seventh framework programme.

“Reliable scientific data is essential to underpinning effective policy-making, and I am confident that the data published today is a valuable addition to the resources available in this area.”

The project carried out research over a three-year period in order to produce evidence-based policy recommendations to improve market regulation of tobacco products to achieve more effective and equitable control of tobacco use in Europe.

The study concluded that future EU legislation could maximise the potential of taxation to improve tobacco control and thereby reduce deaths from tobacco.

At the launch, former European commissioner for health and consumers, David Byrne, highlighted the urgency of “tackling tobacco as key risk factor for many of the chronic diseases affecting European citizens and our healthcare systems”.

Smoking is the largest single cause of preventable premature death and disease, accounting for some 650,000 premature deaths each year in the EU.

Price and tax measures are recognised by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Health Organisation (WHO) as important instruments for reducing tobacco use, while generating revenue for governments.

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