Controlling tobacco to save billions of dollars and millions of lives -WHO

Dangers of smoking

Around 80% of tobacco smokers live in low and middle income countries

From findings published in the WHO monogram on the economics of tobacco and tobacco control, the tobacco industry and the deadly impact of its products cost the world’s economies more than US$ 1 trillion annually in healthcare expenditures and lost productivity. It has also been reported that about 6million tobacco related deaths occur annually, with most of the mortality burden being recorded in developing countries.

Policies that will control tobacco use like increase in taxation and tobacco price will generate significant revenue for governments that can be used to carry out development projects and service health care says the landmark report published by the WHO and the National Cancer Institute of the United States of America. Such policies will also drastically cut down tobacco use and reduce the burden of tobacco related killer diseases like cancers and heart disease.

More on statistics….

• Globally, there are about 1.1 billion tobacco smokers aged 15 or older
• Around 80% of tobacco smokers live in low and middle income countries.
• Approximately 226 million smokers live in poverty.

Citing a study published in 2016, it was stated in the monograph that if all countries increase excise taxes on tobacco by about US$0.08 per pack of cigarette:
• Annual excise revenues from cigarettes globally could increase by 47% or US$ 140 billion.
• Cigarette retail prices would increase by 42%
• There would be about 9% decline in smoking rates
• About 66 million fewer adults would still be smoking

Some of the key conclusions from the 700 paged monograph include:

• The global health and economic burden of tobacco use is enormous and is increasingly borne by low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Around 80% of the world’s smokers live in LMICs.

• Effective policy and programmatic interventions exist to reduce demand for tobacco products and the death, disease, and economic costs resulting from their use, but these interventions are underused. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) provides an evidence-based framework for government action to reduce tobacco use.

• Demand reduction policies and programmes for tobacco products are highly cost-effective. Such interventions include significant tobacco tax and price increases; bans on tobacco industry marketing activities; prominent pictorial health warning labels; smoke-free policies and population-wide tobacco cessation programmes to help people stop smoking. In 2013-2014, global tobacco excise taxes generated nearly US$ 269 billion in government revenues. Of this, less than US$ 1 billion was invested in tobacco control.

• Control of illicit trade in tobacco products is the key supply-side policy to reduce tobacco use and its health and economic consequences. In many countries, high levels of corruption, lack of commitment to addressing illicit trade, and ineffective customs and tax administration, have an equal or greater role in driving tax evasion than do product tax and pricing. The WHO FCTC Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products applies tools, like an international tracking and tracing system, to secure the tobacco supply chain. Experience from many countries shows illicit trade can be successfully addressed, even when tobacco taxes and prices are raised, resulting in increased tax revenues and reduced tobacco use.

• Tobacco control does not harm economies: The number of jobs dependent on tobacco has been falling in most countries, largely due to technological innovation and privatization of once state-owned manufacturing. Tobacco control measures will, therefore, have a modest impact on related employment, and not cause net job losses in the vast majority of countries. Programmes substituting tobacco for other crops offer growers alternative farming options.

• Tobacco control reduces the disproportionate health and economic burden that tobacco use imposes on the poor. Tobacco use is increasingly concentrated among the poor and other vulnerable groups.

• Progress is being made in controlling the global tobacco epidemic, but concerted efforts are needed to ensure progress is maintained or accelerated. In most regions, tobacco use prevalence is stagnant or falling. But increasing tobacco use in some regions, and the potential for increase in others, threatens to undermine global progress in tobacco control.

• The market power of tobacco companies has increased in recent years, creating new challenges for tobacco control efforts. As of 2014, 5 tobacco companies accounted for 85% of the global cigarette market. Policies aimed at limiting the market power of tobacco companies are largely untested but hold promise for reducing tobacco use.

Expert Opinions….

“The research summarised in this monograph confirms that evidence-based tobacco control interventions make sense from an economic as well as a public health standpoint,” says Distinguished Professor Frank Chaloupka, of the Department of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Co-editor of the monogram.

“This report shows how lives can be saved and economies can prosper when governments implement cost-effective, proven measures, like significantly increasing taxes and prices on tobacco products, and banning tobacco marketing and smoking in public,” remarked Dr. Douglas Bettcher, WHO Director for the Prevention of None Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

NCDs account for about 16million premature deaths (deaths before 70th birthday) across the world annually. As part of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) of reducing premature deaths by one third by the year 2030,the WHO is committed to supporting tobacco control policies to curb the epidemics of tobacco related NCDs like cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancers and diabetes.

Author: Faisol Oladosu

Faisol - founder of

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