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WHO report: Tobacco taxes can save lives

January 13, 2017

By Michelle Manchir

Geneva – Taxes and price increases on tobacco could save millions of lives worldwide, according to a report released Jan. 10 from the World Health Organization and the National Cancer Institute that examines the economics of tobacco.

The report, which aims to direct researchers and inform governments about implementing what the World Health Organization calls life-saving and cost-effective measures and policies when it comes to tobacco control, says that the tobacco industry costs the world’s economies more than $1 trillion annually in health care expenditures and lost productivity.

Research summarized in the report concludes that sticking higher taxes and prices on tobacco products means the demand for them will decrease, but that “effective policy and programmatic interventions” such as these are underused.

The report also addresses the significant revenue governments could collect from tobacco taxes.

Citing a 2016 study, the monograph states that revenues from cigarettes globally could increase by 47 percent, or $140 billion, if all countries raised excise taxes by about 80 cents per pack. Additionally, this tax increase would raise cigarette retail prices on average by 42 percent, leading to a 9 percent decline in smoking rates and up to 66 million fewer adult smokers.

“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,” said Dr. Douglas Bettcher, World Health Organization Director for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, in a news release.

The report also concludes that much of the global health and economic burden of tobacco use stems from its use in low- and middle-income countries. Around 80 percent of the world’s smokers live in low- and middle-income countries, according to the report.
The full publication, “The Economics of Tobacco and Tobacco Control,” is available on the World Health Organization website at

ADA supports public policies to prevent tobacco use and urges its members to become fully informed about tobacco use prevention and cessation. (House of Delegates Resolution 78H-2016.)

For more information about the ADA’s involvement in tobacco issues, visit