News / Health

Study: Tobacco Tax Hike Could Save 200 Million Lives

Cigarettes displayed in a store in New York in this March 30, 2010 file photo.
Cigarettes displayed in a store in New York in this March 30, 2010 file photo.

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VOA News
Tripling tobacco taxes could save up to 200 million lives, according to new research published January 1 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"The international tobacco industry makes about $50 billion in profits each year – that’s a profit of approximately $10,000 per death from smoking," said Richard Peto an epidemiologist at Cancer Research UK and co-author of the study.

Raising the tax, the study said, would lower the price gap between the most and least expensive brands, which would lead to more people quitting smoking rather than just moving to a cheaper brand. Higher prices could also discourage young people from taking up smoking.

The effects of higher taxes would be felt especially in low-to-middle-income countries where the cheapest cigarettes are relatively affordable. It would also be effective in richer countries. For example, France halved cigarette consumption from 1990 to 2005 by raising taxes well above inflation, according to the study.

The research points to numerous studies which found that a 50 percent higher inflation-adjusted price for cigarettes reduces consumption by about 20 percent, with stronger reductions among the young and among the poor.

“Globally, about half of all young men and one in ten of all young women become smokers, and, particularly in developing countries, relatively few quit,” said Peto. “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 percent.”

Smoking is the largest cause of premature death from chronic disease, according to the study, and in 2013 the World Health Assembly called governments to reduce smoking by a third by 2025.

The study said that 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 $300 billion a year now to $400 billion a year – income which could be spent on better health care.

About 1.3 billion people smoke, most in low and middle-income countries, according to the study.

Furthermore, the study said two-thirds of all smokers are, in descending number of smokers, in China, India, the EU, Indonesia, the United States, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Bangladesh and Pakistan. China consumes over two trillion cigarettes a year, out of a world total of six trillion, the research states.

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by: Trujillo from: AZ
January 07, 2014 4:41 PM
These researchers are a joke just the Feds are. If they were for real the FEDS would make it ILLEGAL to use all those chemicals added to make people more addicted, crave cigarettes. 20 years later and still NOT DONE to stop doping the tobacco.
Second is hit the ones adding the chemicals for the injuries CAUSED by their actions.
But that would happen because in the same group as too big to fail, too big to jail.

by: Art Vandelay from: US
January 03, 2014 3:31 AM
Of course many in "developing countries" will die from bullets or disease before they turn 40 too (China still has people who live in caves, the Taliban have dominated by profits from Heroin) but by all means, let's take away their cigarettes.... Hello trees, this is the forest, yeah we're burning...

by: amishjihad from: Switzerland
January 03, 2014 3:22 AM
To quote from the article above. “Globally, about half of all young men and one in ten of all young women become smokers, and, particularly in developing countries, relatively few quit,” said Peto. “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 percent.”
And to quote to again. "About 1.3 billion people smoke, most in low and middle-income countries, according to the study"..
Am I the only one that sees the whole picture? With the concern for overpopulation on this planet and the worlds population having the potential to live longer, this is the perfect solution. People taking their lives voluntarily at such a high rate is exactly what this planet needs to survive. AND. We all know what the majority of the funds that will be generated from all this tax will be used for? That's right more and bigger wars to kill more people. Quite the perfect combination to slow down population growth. Look at me the eternal optimist. Problem solved. God I love humanity and its infinite wisdom.

by: Mont
January 03, 2014 12:05 AM
Could, but won't. When I stopped smoking they were under $1/pack, now they are what, $5? How many people have stopped smoking because they are 5x more expensive? How many new people started smoking even during the price increases? It will just be wasted at your local health department on buying car seats for people who can't keep their legs closed.

by: wag from: US
January 02, 2014 10:25 PM
The statement that "the international tobacco industry makes...a profit of approximately $10,000 per death from smoking," is about as meaningless a statistic as one could formulate, in that the profit per death is inversely proportional to the number of people who die from smoking. If the number of deaths were cut in half, the profit per death would then be $20,000. So what's your point, Dr. Peto?

by: Anonymous
January 02, 2014 5:46 PM
Perhap the Companies should be forced to pay the medical expenses incurred by smoke related illnesses instead of charging more tax that the government would squander anyway would be a better start.

by: Adolf Siebenhaar from: United States
January 02, 2014 5:44 PM
The only thing guaranteed by an increase in taxes on tobacco is that the bureaucrats will have more money to waste on another string of needless legislation and government offices. For those of you who are militantly anti-smoking or smoker reformers, I pay additional taxes, health insurance premiums, and life insurance premiums for the privilege of smoking. I will continue to smoke tobacco, do as I please with my time and space as I see fit, and scoff at any attempt to force my compliance with ridiculous attempts to change me, whether by coercion, ridicule, or violence until I am no longer able to afford my behavior or until the bureaucrats succeed in completely stripping away all of my rights and freedoms.
In Response

by: Rick FromTexas
January 03, 2014 12:53 AM
I smoke too but I'd quit in a heartbeat if they invented a pill that prevented withdrawal.

by: Zensible from: Seattle WA
January 02, 2014 4:30 PM
Lets triple the price of snow skis to, so we can cut down on skiing accidents. Triple the price of cars to cut down on automobile accidents. Maybe if we stopped listening to studies that are three times dumber than the average....

by: Robert Heron from: California
January 02, 2014 3:55 PM
Once the world has stopped smoking, how will the lost tax revenue be recovered?

by: Art Stone from: USA
January 02, 2014 3:53 PM
How many additional deaths will occur from the newly obese when they stop smoking? Or suffer from food insecurity because they choose to continue smoking?
In Response

by: Treacy from: China
January 02, 2014 11:00 PM
your thinking is so funny,but reasonable
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