In the absence of intervention, smoking will kill about 250 million current and future cigarette smokers who are alive today in China, India, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Image: Wikipedia

Recent tobacco tax increases in India and the Philippines could significantly lower smoking-related deaths in those countries, says the lead researcher of a report for the Asian Development Bank.

The report, entitled “Tobacco Taxes: A Win–Win Measure for Fiscal Space and Health”, examined how changes in cigarette taxes can reduce consumption and save lives in five Asian countries. Already home to about 400 million adult smokers these countries are: the People’s Republic of China, India, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The report estimates that in the absence of intervention, smoking will eventually kill about 250 million current and future cigarette smokers who are alive today in these nations.

“We find that for all five countries, increases in cigarette prices … effectively reduce the number of smokers and the number of smoking-related deaths, and generate substantial new revenues,” states the report. For example, “A 50% price increase, corresponding to a tax increase of about 70%–122%, would reduce the number of current and future smokers by nearly 67 million and reduce tobacco deaths by over 27 million, while generating over $24 billion in additional revenue annually,” it concludes.
Since the report’s release in November 2012, the Indian government raised cigarette taxes by about 18% in its 2013 budget. Given that India has about 100 million current smokers plus notable uptake rates among young men, this measure alone “might avoid a few hundreds of thousands of deaths,” says Professor Prabhat Jha, lead author of the report. Jha is director of the Centre for Global Health Research and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Toronto in Canada.

“More impressively,” adds Professor Jha, “the Philippines government has raised taxes by well over 75%,” while similar actions are being contemplated in other countries.

In 2014, Professor Jha’s team plans to start monitoring the impact of tobacco tax increases in India and the Philippines as well as in other settings in partnership with the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control. “We know the full impact of smoking will only hit Asian countries a few decades from now,” he says. “Evidence from high income countries finds that smokers can expect to lose a full decade of good life. But quitting early in adult life can reduce that risk by 90% or more.”

 

 

For further information contact:

Professor Prabhat Jha
Centre for Global Health Research, St Michael’s Hospital and
Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto,
Canada
Email: prabhat.jha@utoronto.ca