Toronto, Jan 2 (IANS) To reduce smoking in middle-income countries like India, where the cheapest cigarettes are relatively affordable and where smoking rates continue to rise, heavy taxes is the only way out.
Tripling taxes on cigarettes around the world would reduce the number of smokers by one-third and prevent 200 million premature deaths from lung cancer and other diseases this century, says a new study published in New England Journal of Medicine.
According to Prabhat Jha, lead author and director of Centre for Global Health Research of St. Michael’s Hospital here, such a huge tax increase would narrow the price gap between the cheapest and most expensive cigarettes – encouraging people to stop rather than switch to a cheaper brand and help young people not to start.
“Death and taxes are inevitable, but they don’t need to be in that order. A higher tax on tobacco is the single most effective intervention to lower smoking rates and to deter future smokers,” said Jha, also a professor at Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
“This would also be effective in rich countries. France halved cigarette consumption between 1990 and 2005 by raising taxes well above inflation,” he added.
According to the Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project India (TCP India), there are approximately 275 million tobacco users in India.
Tobacco use accounts for nearly half of all cancers among males and a quarter of all cancers among females in India and it is estimated that there will be 1.5 million tobacco-related deaths annually by 2020.
“There’s an urgent need for governments to find ways to stop people starting and to help smokers give up. This study demonstrates that tobacco taxes are a hugely powerful weapon and potentially a triple win – reducing the numbers of people who smoke and who die from their addiction, reducing premature deaths from smoking and yet, at the same time, increasing government income,” said said co-author Richard Peto, professor at University of Oxford.