WHO Wants To Raise Taxes On Tobacco To Discourage Smoking

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When reminders about the health risks of smoking seem to not have too much effect in discouraging smoking, the World Health Organization suggests the most effective step is to make tobacco products less accessible, at least financially.

This should be a win-win situation for the World Health Organization in its efforts to lessen the number of smokers worldwide, if not eradicate it entirely.

The organization announced today its WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2015. This report is the fifth in a series of reports showing the extent and character of the worldwide tobacco scale. It also suggests ways to stop it.

The launch welcomed high-level WHO officials and prominent health organization figures, including officials from the Philippine government. It suggests a focus on tobacco taxes to help reduce consumption.

“Raising taxes on tobacco products is one of the most effective, and cost-effective, ways to reduce consumption of products that kill, while also generating substantial revenue,” said Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization.

The consumption of tobacco is known to cause the deaths of 6 million people each year.  The WHO adds that in 2030, the number of deaths caused by smoking may go up to 8 million annually. The organization predicted that this year, around 6 million people may be killed due to the tobacco epidemic. Of the 6 million, more than 5 million will be users and ex-users of both smoked and smokeless tobacco. The rest of the more than 600,000 people will be nonsmokers who were exposed to secondhand smoke.  Unless measures are taken to stop it, like raising taxes on tobacco, smoking-related deaths may continually increase.

In wealthy countries, an increase by 10 percent in the prices of tobacco reduces consumption by about 4 percent, according to the report. In middle-income to low-income countries where 80 percent of the world’s one billion reside, a price increase in tobacco reduces consumption to about 5 percent.

In France, for example, cigarette prices have increased since the 1990s and death rates in lung cancer have decreased as a result.

In the Philippines, tobacco taxes have steadily increased, 15 percent of which, it is reported, is used to support tobacco farmers in building new livelihoods.

The percentage of smokers is declining in many countries, but the overall number is still rising.  Exponential population growth, for one, is causing the numbers to rise.

The WHO, however, called out to the tobacco industry, which it notes seems to be trying to influence governments, an example being the U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbying against anti-smoking policies in some countries.

Out of the WHO’s 194 member countries, 33 have taxes totaling 75 percent of the overall sales price.

The U.N. adopted a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and since 2005 has been focusing on protecting people from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure.

It stresses six evidence-based measures that are proven to reduce tobacco use, known as MPOWER. It refers to: M – Monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies; P – Protecting people from tobacco smoke; O – Offering help to quit tobacco use; W – Warning about the dangers of tobacco; E – Enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and R – Raising taxes on tobacco.

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