UN affirms tobacco taxation as essential for social development and economic health

New York City (20 Sept. 2011) – At today’s U.N. High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), Member States adopted a Political Declaration that commits governments to accelerate implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and encourages countries, which have not yet done so, to consider acceding to the FCTC.

Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) director Bungon Ritthiphakdee, speaking from the UN General Assembly in New York City, reports that the Declaration also recognizes that reducing tobacco consumption is an important contribution to reduce NCDs and that price and tax measures are an effective and important means of reducing tobacco consumption.



Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, highlighted this in her address to the UN General Assembly, “Full implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control would bring the single biggest blow to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory disease. In terms of demand reduction, increases in tobacco taxes and prices are the most effective measure. They not only protect health. They bring in considerable revenue.”

A recent World Economic Forum and Harvard University study estimates that, over the next 20 years, NCDs will cost the global economy more than US$ 30 trillion, representing 48 percent of global GDP in 2010. NCDs can thus “break the bank” of even the wealthiest nations said Dr. Chan. According to Ms. Ritthiphakdee, the High-Level Meeting on NCDs provides an excellent opportunity for public health and tobacco control advocates in all countries to reiterate the triple benefit of higher tobacco taxes: lives saved, healthcare savings, and higher government revenues.

Smoking prevalence in Indonesia (34%) and the Philippines (28.3%) are currently among the highest in the world. Not coincidentally, they also have some of the lowest tobacco tax rates and the cheapest tobacco products in the world. But Southeast Asia is also home to some of the most compelling proofs of the effectiveness of raising tobacco taxes. “In ASEAN countries such as Thailand, which has increased tobacco taxes nine times from 1994-2010 (current excise rate is 85%), smoking prevalence among youths and the poor decreased more than 50 percent,” said Ritthiphakdee. “Singapore’s adult smoking prevalence decreased by almost 6 percent from 1992-2005, with a 10 percent tax increase.”

“With this affirmation of the FCTC and tobacco taxation in the UN Political Declaration, we in the global tobacco control community need to persist in strengthening implementation of the FCTC in all fronts.” she concludes. In addition to price and tax measures to reduce tobacco consumption, governments committed to steps that include curbing the extensive marketing to children of foods and beverages that are high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, sugars, or salt. Other measures seek to cut the harmful consumption of alcohol, promote overall healthy diets and increase physical activity. The overall death toll of NCDs is estimated at 36 million annually, 6 million of which are attributed to tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke. (ENDS)

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