UK & World News

  • 2 January 2014, 7:16

Tobacco Tax Hike Would Save 200 Million Lives

More than 200 million lives could be saved by the end of this century if tobacco taxes were tripled around the world.

Researchers claim the tax boost would help stop youngsters from taking up the habit and would persuade many to give up.

Evidence gathered from a review of 63 studies on the causes and consequences of tobacco use in different countries found a 50% higher inflation-adjusted price for cigarettes reduces tobacco consumption by about a fifth.

The biggest impact is on the young and poor.

In most high-income countries, about 50% to 60% of the price of a pack of cigarettes is tax. But in most low and middle-income countries, tax makes up only 30% to 40% of the cost.

Study co-author Professor Sir Richard Peto, from the charity Cancer Research UK, said: "Globally, about half of all young men and one in 10 of all young women become smokers, and, particularly in developing countries, relatively few quit.

"If they keep smoking, about half will be killed by it, but if they stop before 40, they'll reduce their risk of dying from tobacco by 90%."

He added: "The international tobacco industry makes about 30bn in profits each year - that's a profit of approximately 6,000 per death from smoking."

As well as cutting consumption by a third, tripling tobacco taxes would also increase global government revenues from tobacco by a third, from 180bn a year to 240bn, the researchers claim.

The findings are reported in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "Worldwide, around half a billion children and adults under the age of 35 are already - or soon will be - smokers, and many will be hooked on tobacco for life.

"We urge all governments, not least the UK Government, to take action by regularly raising tobacco taxes above inflation, and using occasional steep tax hikes starting with the next budget."

A Government spokesman said: "Smoking is the single biggest cause of preventable illness and premature death, and the Government is taking action to significantly reduce the number of smokers in the UK.

"There is clear evidence that cost has an impact on people giving up or taking it up in the first place and the taxation of tobacco announced at the Budget and action to prevent smuggling of it reflects this evidence."

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