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Triple tobacco tax will stop 200 million early deaths

Tripling the tax would cut smoking worldwide by a third and prevent 200 million early deaths this century, according to leading researchers, who add that a hike in tobacco tax would be especially effective in low-to-middle-income countries, where the cheapest cigarettes are relatively affordable.

world Updated: Jan 03, 2014 20:23 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar

Tripling the tax on tobacco would cut smoking worldwide by a third and prevent 200 million early deaths this century, according to leading researchers writing in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Richard Peto of Oxford University and Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto say that boosting the tax by a large fixed amount per cigarette would encourage people to quit smoking altogether rather than switch to a cheaper brand, and would help stop young people from starting.

They add that a hike in tobacco tax would be especially effective in low-to-middle-income countries where the cheapest cigarettes are relatively affordable. But it would also be effective in richer countries: France halved cigarette consumption from 1990 to 2005 by raising taxes well above inflation.

Smoking causes about 12-25% of all deaths in middle-aged men in China, India, Bangladesh and South Africa, and these proportions are set to rise.

Peto, of Oxford's Clinical Trial Service Unit, 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%."

In their review paper, Peto and Jha explain that numerous studies have found that a 50% higher inflation-adjusted price for cigarettes reduces consumption by about 20%, with stronger reductions among the young and among the poor.

Tripling tobacco taxes would decrease worldwide consumption by about a third, but despite this it would also increase government revenues from tobacco by a third, from 180 billion pounds a year now to 240 billion pounds a year, which could be spent on better healthcare.

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "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."January: Tripling the tax on tobacco would cut smoking worldwide by a third and prevent 200 million early deaths this century, according to leading researchers writing in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Richard Peto of Oxford University and Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto say that boosting the tax by a large fixed amount per cigarette would encourage people to quit smoking altogether rather than switch to a cheaper brand, and would help stop young people from starting.

They add that a hike in tobacco tax would be especially effective in low-to-middle-income countries where the cheapest cigarettes are relatively affordable. But it would also be effective in richer countries: France halved cigarette consumption from 1990 to 2005 by raising taxes well above inflation.

Smoking causes about 12-25% of all deaths in middle-aged men in China, India, Bangladesh and South Africa, and these proportions are set to rise.

Peto, of Oxford's Clinical Trial Service Unit, 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%."

In their review paper, Peto and Jha explain that numerous studies have found that a 50% higher inflation-adjusted price for cigarettes reduces consumption by about 20%, with stronger reductions among the young and among the poor.

Tripling tobacco taxes would decrease worldwide consumption by about a third, but despite this it would also increase government revenues from tobacco by a third, from 180 billion pounds a year now to 240 billion pounds a year, which could be spent on better healthcare.

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "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."