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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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: tim in seattle from: seattle wa
January 02, 2014 3:50 PM
excellent idea
also, a LOT of people die in auto accidents each year, so we need to stop making cars and building roads.
the list can go on
make sure we never leave our homes.. or take a shower, or eat a piece of bacon......
Oh, and by the way, smokers, knock it off, it's bad for you and is offensive to the rest of us.


by: peebee from: hampshire
January 02, 2014 3:47 PM
why do they think that taxing everything is the answer, people die, FACT, if they enjoy their vices, let them get on with it, and when they're ill give them the choice of uthenasia, and save the health services loads of money. Harsh I know, but an option.


by: C Shell from: USA
January 02, 2014 3:23 PM
We will continue to use ecigs....jerks.


by: cawmentor from: 'Merica
January 02, 2014 3:13 PM
The program is going to be called "lets bankrupt the addict"
from the makers of "kicking them when they are down", and "lets give the alcoholic some more alcohol"


by: Northernscout from: Victoria BC Canada
January 02, 2014 2:45 PM
Smoking, drinking, drugs, they are all natural means of population control. I moved into an office where there were approx 250 employees and half smoked. When I left there most of the smokers never reached retirement at 65. Office workers sitting around on their behinds are at most risk it seems. Anyway, keep smoking it boosts the pensions of the rest of us who don't smoke. Cut back the taxes. Perfect.


by: Pierre Gazzola
January 02, 2014 2:35 PM
This will result like in Canada, instead of paying 80 buck per cartoon We now buy it from the Indian at 13 buck Government did not benefit from the increase Higher tax are more black market and illegal activity is done


by: Eugenics Plan from: USA
January 02, 2014 2:23 PM
But get your FLU SHOT everyone, so we can KILL YOU with the thimerisol and ethyl MERCURY that is in it. Get your FLU Shot!!!


by: Bashir from: Toronto
January 02, 2014 2:23 PM
It is a very good idea

Same should happen for Alcohol since that ruins the liver too

How about that?


by: John
January 02, 2014 2:22 PM
This is completely wrong. People wills till smoke you will just make the people who do more poor. Seeing as how usually it is poorer people who smoke the most, this is another way of keeping the have nots down. Why dont we raise the taxes on alcohol too while were at it from all of those who die from alcoholism? It isnt the governments job to tell us what we can and cant do. If people want to give themselves cancer then let them. Its not your problem. Im sick of people thinking they can save lives by adding taxes. This is the most ridiculous statement ive ever seen. They raised taxes on cigarettes in NY. Where only 14% of the population smokes. Look and see how many people actually quit smoking because the cost was too high. Correct answer, next to no one. Do better reporting. This is completely bogus.

In Response

by: Mike from: New Zealand
January 02, 2014 4:56 PM
Hey John, I like your comment. In my country we refer to the meddling government as 'Nanny State'. Like you, I am also sick of this kind of manipulation and control by those in power. Let us live and die as we choose. Politicians don't give a rat's about keeping people healthy, nor are they actually very concerned with raising revenues - it is all just a big game of 'rich get richer'.


by: fp from: New York City
January 02, 2014 2:12 PM
Not from working, but or does encourage under-the-table employment. Spain is a good example of this, where a large portion of workers 18-34 prefer unreported employment. This has also had a dramatic effect on the sustainability of social government programs, where the returned tax can't support the whole , and has led to severe corruption.

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