Saving millions of lives costs less than $2 per person per year

Bangkok, 25 May 2018: The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) welcomes the new World Health Organization (WHO) report titled “Saving lives, spending less: a strategic response to NCDs”.

“We are very pleased with this new report, which quantifies the economic returns on investment of WHO’s proposed best-buy interventions for non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as increasing tobacco taxes to reduce tobacco use. This will not only save lives and protect people from NCDs but can be a significant revenue stream to fund development priorities like Universal Health Coverage (UHC), education and other social development programs,” said Ms. Bungon Ritthiphakdee, Executive Director of SEATCA.

According to the report, WHO’s best-buys offer an excellent return on investment. An investment of US$1 in interventions to address NCDs in low- and lower-middle-income countries (LLMICs) will have a return to society of at least US$7 in increased employment, productivity and longer life.  Specifically, a US$1 investment in policies to reduce tobacco use will have a return of US$7.43 from lower tobacco use.

The report also indicates that taking effective measures to prevent and control NCDs costs just an additional US$1.27 per person per year. The health gains from this investment will in turn generate US$350 billion by 2030 through averted health care costs and increased productivity and 8.2 million lives saved during the same period.

“Experiences from many countries prove that increasing taxes and prices of tobacco products also helps increase government revenues while simultaneously reducing tobacco use by encouraging smokers to quit and discouraging others, especially children, from picking up the habit. Ultimately, it helps to decrease the socio-economic burden of tobacco use and NCDs. It’s a win-win for governments and society,” said Ritthiphakdee.

Best-buy interventions to reduce tobacco use include increasing taxes and prices of tobacco products, implementing plain/standardized packaging and/or large graphic health warnings on all tobacco packages, enacting and enforcing comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, eliminating exposure to second-hand smoke in all indoor workplaces, public places and public transport, and implementing effective mass-media campaigns that educate the public about the harms of smoking/tobacco use and second-hand smoke.

“There is no better time for governments to invest in these best-buy interventions than now. It does not cost much to address the issue on NCDs if governments invest in policies intelligently. We would like to congratulate the WHO on this invaluable resource and urge governments especially in the ASEAN, where most countries are low- or middle-income countries, to also consider sustainable financing mechanisms for health, such as dedicated tobacco and alcohol tax revenues, as part of public financing to address NCDs and achieve their sustainable development objectives,” added Ritthiphakdee.

Tobacco use remains one of the world’s leading causes of preventable premature death. In the ASEAN region where half of all adult men smoke and where 10% (125 million) of the world’s smokers live, tobacco-caused diseases kill about 500,000 people per year.


Wendell C Balderas, Media and Communications Manager – SEATCA
Email: | Mobile: +63 999 881 2117 ##

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SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the evidence-based tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control movements in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.