Doubling cigarette prices in EU would prevent 100,000 deaths/year in people under the age of 70; raising taxes on cigarettes would encourage people to quit, discourage young people from starting, researchers say

CORK, Ireland , January 2, 2014 () – The tax boost would encourage people to quit smoking rather than switch from more expensive to cheaper brands, and help to stop young people taking up the habit, say the scientists.

They came to the conclusion after conducting a systematic review of 63 studies on the causes and consequences of tobacco use in different countries.

Research has shown that a 50% higher inflation-adjusted price for cigarettes reduces tobacco consumption by about a fifth, with the biggest impact on the young and poor.

In most high-income countries, about 50% to 60% of the price of a packet of cigarettes is tax. However, in most low and middle-income countries, tax makes up only 30% to 40% of the cost.

Study co-author Prof Richard Peto, from the charity Cancer Research UK, said: "Globally, about half of all young men and one in 10 of all young women become smokers, and, particularly in developing countries, relatively few quit. If they keep smoking, about half will be killed by it, but if they stop before 40, they'll reduce their risk of dying from tobacco by 90%.

"The international tobacco industry makes about [pounds sterling]30bn ([euro]36bn) in profits each year - that's a profit of approximately [pounds sterling]6,000 per death from smoking."

In the EU, a doubling of cigarette prices would prevent 100,000 deaths a year in the under 70s, researchers added.

The findings are reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "Worldwide, around half a billion children and adults under the age of 35 are already - or soon will be - smokers, and many will be hooked on tobacco for life. So there's an urgent need for governments to find ways to stop people starting and to help smokers give up.

"This immensely important study demonstrates that tobacco taxes are a hugely powerful lever, and potentially a triple win - reducing the numbers of people who smoke and who die from their addiction, reducing the health care burden and costs associated with smoking and yet, at the same time, increasing government income."
(c) 2014 Thomas Crosbie Media

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