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New Study: Cigarette Taxes and Media Campaigns Reduce Smoking

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
June 12, 2008

Washington, D.C. — A new study published online today by the American Journal of Public Health provides important new evidence that cigarette tax increases and mass media public education campaigns can significantly reduce smoking.

These proven measures are a part of a package of cost-effective solutions for reducing tobacco use, called the MPOWER package, that the World Health Organization has recommended every nation implement.

This new study adds to the overwhelming body of evidence that these solutions work and should spur governments to take urgent actions to protect the health of their citizens from tobacco use, the world’s leading cause of preventable death.

The study, conducted by a team of Australian researchers, examined the impact of several tobacco control policies on adult smoking rates in Australia over a 10 year period. The study found that government action can effectively reduce tobacco use. Key findings include:

  • Higher cigarette prices resulting from tax increases led to rapid reductions in adult smoking rates, even when controlling for other factors. According to the study, increases in the cost of a pack of cigarettes created measurable declines in smoking rates.
  • Well-funded and sustained tobacco control media campaigns significantly reduced smoking rates. The study concludes that media campaigns must be adequately funded to ensure sufficient exposure to the public and must be sustained over time.

The results of the study demonstrate that raising the price of tobacco by increasing tobacco taxes will reducing smoking, but an even greater impact can be achieved by using some of the revenue from the tobacco tax to fund a sustained media campaign.

To effectively reduce tobacco use, the WHO recommends that nations implement a package of six cost-effective solutions called MPOWER:

  • M.onitor tobacco use and assess the impact of tobacco prevention and cessation efforts;
  • Protect everyone from secondhand smoke with laws that require smoke-free workplaces and public places;
  • Offer help to every tobacco user to quit;
  • Warn and effectively educate every person about the dangers of tobacco use with strong, pictorial health warnings and hard-hitting, sustained media campaigns;
  • Enact and enforce comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorships and on the use of misleading terms such as “light” and “low-tar;” and
  • Raise the price of tobacco products by significantly increasing tobacco taxes.

Tobacco taxes are one of the single most effective ways of reducing tobacco use, with studies showing that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces overall cigarette consumption by 4 percent and youth smoking by 7 percent.

In addition, the WHO has found that consumer mass media campaigns are effective in educating the public on the dangers of smoking, countering the tobacco industry’s marketing and promotional tactics, and reducing tobacco use.

According to the WHO, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the world today and will kill one billion people worldwide this century unless nations act now to save lives.

Tobacco use already kills 5.4 million people a year and the epidemic is worsening, especially in the developing world where more than 80 percent of tobacco-caused deaths will occur in the coming decades. However, this epidemic is entirely preventable if nations urgently implement proven solutions.