Taxing tobacco "efficient and effective" way to reduce consumption

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Photo: Unifeed/WHO

Raising taxes on tobacco reduces consumption of products such as cigarettes, but too few governments are taking this step, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

WHO on Tuesday released its latest findings on the global tobacco epidemic, which it described as one of the biggest public health threats worldwide.

The UN agency said tobacco kills six million people each year: more than HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

Dianne Penn reports.

The World Health Organization said taxing tobacco products is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to discourage use of what it called "products that kill."

Since 2008, the agency has promoted government action on six areas aimed at stamping out the tobacco epidemic.

Known by the acronym MPOWER, the measures include monitoring use, enforcing advertising bans and raising taxes on tobacco products.

Dr Douglas Bettcher is Director of WHO's Department for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases.

"Despite substantial evidence that tobacco taxation is the most efficient measure to reduce consumption, unfortunately, it is still the least widely implemented of the MPOWER measures. Only 33 countries covering 1 in 10 people worldwide have implemented the MPOWER measure at the highest level; i.e. more than 75 per cent the package price."

WHO cited evidence from countries such as China and France which showed that taxation led to a decline in smoking and lung cancer deaths.

Approximately six million people worldwide die annually from tobacco-related diseases.

WHO expects this figure to rise to eight million by 2030 unless strong measures are taken. 

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1'16"


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