No doubt, the war on tobacco is a costly one. Now new findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggest tripling taxes on cigarettes worldwide would reduce the number of smokers by one-third.
“Death and taxes are inevitable, but they don’t need to be in that order,” said Dr. Prabhat Jha, director of the Centre for Global Health Research of St. Michael’s Hospital in a press release.
The review also found a tax hike would prevent 200 million premature deaths from lung cancer and other diseases this century.
“A higher tax on tobacco is the single most effective intervention to lower smoking rates and to deter future smokers,” said Jha.
Researchers concluded such a large tax increase would double the street price of cigarettes in some countries and narrow the price gap between the cheapest and most expensive cigarettes.
This would ultimately encourage people to stop smoking rather than switch to a cheaper brand. It would also help deter young people from starting the habit.
“Worldwide, around a half-billion children and adults under the age of 35 are already – or soon will be – smokers and on current patterns few will quit,” said co-author, Professor Sir Richard Peto of the University of Oxford in a press release.
Tobacco causes about 200,000 deaths a year of people under the age of 70 in Canada and the U.S., which breaks down to 120,000 men and 80,000 women.
Doubling cigarette prices would prevent about 70,000 of those deaths and provide new revenue for governments to help with the rising costs of heath care.
“So there’s an urgent need for governments to find ways to stop people starting and to help smokers give up. This study demonstrates that tobacco taxes are a hugely powerful lever and potentially a triple win, reducing the numbers of people who smoke and who die from their addiction, reducing premature deaths from smoking and yet, at the same time, increasing government income. All governments can take action by regularly raising tobacco taxes above inflation, and using occasional steep tax hikes starting with their next budget. Young adult smokers will lose about a decade of life if they continue to smoke, they’ve so much to gain by stopping,” said Peto.
Several studies published in 2013 showed men and women who started smoking when they were young and continued throughout adulthood had two or three times the mortality rate of non-smokers.
An average of 10 years of life is lost from smoking.
Many of those killed are still in middle age, meaning on average they lose about 20 years of life expectancy.
Countries around the world agreed at the United Nations General Assembly and the World Health Organization’s 2013 Assembly to decrease the prevalence of smoking by about one-third by 2025, also to reduce premature deaths from cancer and other chronic diseases by 25 percent.