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Tobacco control needs more govt backing to generate revenue and save lives

The launch of a landmark global report on the Economics of Tobacco and Tobacco Control confirmed what most governments already know, that higher taxes can generate more revenue and save lives.

In 2013-2014, global tobacco excise taxes generated nearly US$269 billion in government revenue. A 2016 study states that annual excise revenues from cigarettes globally could increase by 47 percent or US$140 billion if all countries raised excise taxes by about US$0.80 per pack. The price increases can generate significant government revenues for health and development work.

Increasing taxes and the prices of tobacco can reduce tobacco smoking by 9 percent and save lives by protecting people's health from lung cancer and heart diseases.

According to the World Health Organisation, tobacco control does not harm economies. Contrary to belief, the number of jobs dependent on tobacco has been falling in most countries, largely due to technological innovation and privatisation 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, which has already been implemented in Laos.

On February 4, World Cancer Day, it is important to note that tobacco use is the single most important risk factor for cancer causing about 20 percent of global cancer deaths and around 70 percent of global lung cancer deaths.

Globally, about 6 million people die from tobacco related disease every year, and tobacco use costs the world's economies more than US$1 trillion annually in healthcare expenditures and lost productivity through premature deaths. It robs households of finances that could have been used for education or food and imposes immense healthcare costs on families, communities and countries.

In Laos, about 13 people die from tobacco use each day. Around the world, there are 1.1 billion tobacco smokers aged 15 or older, with around 80 percent living in low and middle-income countries.

About 226 million smokers live in poverty. 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.

The progress made in controlling the global tobacco epidemic has been seen in developed and some developing countries. 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 low and middle income countries and the potential for increase in others, threatens to undermine global progress in tobacco control.

In this new report, we can see 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.

In 2016, the Lao government made a progressive achievement in passing a tobacco control regulation including the printing of graphic health warnings covering 75 percent of packaging, on top of both sides of cigarette packages and packets, and banning all forms of tobacco advertisement, promotion and sponsorship, while all indoor areas must remain smoke free.

Reducing tobacco use plays a major role in global efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of reducing premature deaths from non-communicable diseases by one-third by 2030. “We can; I can” make a difference to reduce the global cancer burden # WorldCancerDay. We need stronger government support to implement tobacco control policies, and enforcement of the law is the obvious next step.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update February 4, 2017)

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