WHO Asks Governments to Levy Higher Taxes to Curb Tobacco Use

Tobacco tops the risk factors for non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular ailments, lung diseases, diabetes and cancer. These diseases accounted for 16 million deaths below the age of 70 with more than 80% of these deaths occurring in poor or middle-income countries.

A WHO report today asked nations to hike taxes on tobacco products to bring down consumption. India increased taxes on cigarettes in between 2012-2014, but it had scant effect on cigarette consumption because the increase in prices was offset by relatively high-income growth.

The WHO report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2015 was released in Manila .It underlined the fact that Cigarettes have become affordable in growing third world economies like China, India and Vietnam where modest increases in taxes on tobacco products has been compensated by higher income growth. The report bemoaned the fact that very few governments levy taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products. They miss out on a proven and economical way to limit tobacco consumption and thus save lives.

The report came down heavily on India’s tiered taxation system for cigarettes which creates loopholes in measures taken to reduce consumption and suggested a simpler tax framework. The tiered structure of excise taxes on cigarettes is based on cigarette length, and there are seven levels of excise duty. Taxes are also levied whether or not there is a filter. However, such tiered taxes lead to loopholes

South-East Asia accounts for a fourth of world’s smokers and 90% of smokeless tobacco users and no wonder WHO has called an all-out war against tobacco use. 6 million people are killed annually due to tobacco .use, and a fifth of them live in this region.

WHO South-East Asia regional director Poonam Khetrapal Singh was speaking at the launch of the WHO Report on Global Tobacco Epidemic 2015. She asked governments in the region to levy harsher taxes, stronger law enforcement and initiatives to limit tobacco use. The region has 246 million smokers and 290 million smokeless tobacco users.