Jan. 10 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A landmark global report released today provides another powerful reason why the fight against tobacco must be a priority for countries around the world: It not only saves lives, but also reduces the enormous economic toll of tobacco use. The report finds that tobacco use does not contribute to economic development. In fact, tobacco use burdens countries with more than $1 trillion a year in health care costs and lost productivity, while measures to reduce tobacco use are highly cost-effective and do not harm economies, according to the report issued by the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the World Health Organization.
The report, The Economics of Tobacco and Tobacco Control, is the first comprehensive review of the economic impact of tobacco use and global tobacco control efforts in nearly 20 years.
The report underscores that tobacco use disproportionally harms the world’s most vulnerable populations. In the United States and around the world, tobacco use is increasingly concentrated among the poor and other vulnerable groups and accounts for a significant share of health disparities between rich and poor, the report notes. These disparities are exacerbated by a lack of access to health care, diversion of household spending from basic needs such as food and shelter to tobacco, and increased health care spending and reduced income stemming from tobacco-related diseases. Importantly, the report finds that higher tobacco taxes and prices reduce health disparities because they lead to greater reductions in tobacco use among the poor. Contrary to the claims of the tobacco industry, it is tobacco use – and not tobacco taxes – that disproportionately harms poor people.
The report assesses the impact of tobacco control measures being implemented around the world, including significant tobacco tax and price increases, bans on tobacco marketing, pictorial warnings on tobacco products, smoke-free policies and population-wide tobacco cessation programs. These measures are called for by the world’s first public health treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which obligates 180 countries to implement these proven policies to reduce tobacco use. The report finds that these policies and programs are highly cost-effective, with significant tobacco tax and price increases being the most cost-effective of these interventions.
The tobacco industry’s deep pockets and deadly tactics remain the greatest obstacle to progress in addressing the devastating global toll of tobacco use. The report notes that in addition to continued implementation of evidence-based tobacco control strategies, vigilant monitoring of the tobacco industry’s ongoing efforts to promote tobacco use and undermine tobacco control is crucial.
This report reminds us that while tremendous progress has been made in reducing tobacco use, urgent and sustained global action is needed to prevent tobacco use from killing one billion people worldwide this century.