A Call for Action: Responding to the Tobacco Epidemic and the Price of CigarettesPosted on by
“Raising taxes to increase the price of tobacco products is the most effective means to reduce tobacco use and encourage smokers to quit.” – WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2013
Real People, Real Stories
Mehmet Nuhoğlu started smoking when he was in middle school at the age of 12 after hearing that real men smoke. Little did he know that 45 years later his two pack a day addiction would lead to a heart attack and then cancer. “I never thought it would happen to me. I still can’t believe it,” he says.
Featured in national ads similar to the US Tips campaign, Mehmet was one of the real-life people featured in Turkey’s anti-tobacco mass media campaign that was launched in the later part of 2011. He tells of his experience with cigarettes and what daily smoking ended up costing him- his voice and his health. Now speaking with the help of an electrolarynx (a device that helps users who have lost their voice box produce clearer speech), he confesses that he regrets smoking.
Mehmet is only one example of millions who have suffered from the harmful and life-altering consequences of tobacco use. Tobacco is now the world’s single leading cause of death, killing approximately 6 million people annually worldwide, and this figure is expected to rise to 8 million deaths per year by 2030 if no action is taken. Although tobacco use has decreased in the U.S and other high-income countries, the tobacco epidemic is rapidly spreading to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). These growing countries are unable to sustain their economic development due to the emerging burden of tobacco, resulting in productivity losses and increasing health care costs.
With the support of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and MPOWER measures, governments are armed with a legally binding treaty and demand-reducing tools to combat the tobacco epidemic. Specifically, the MPOWER measures outline six evidence-based interventions that reduce the demand, in other words the users’ desire, for tobacco.
- Decrease tobacco use,
- Lower smoking rates by increasing the number of those who quit,
- Have the largest impact in LMICs, and
- Generate a stream of revenue for governments. These funds can be earmarked and used for tobacco control programs and interventions.
Lessons learned from LMICs tax policy examples, like Costa Rica, Mexico, Philippines and Turkey, can be used to inform and guide decision makers in other LMICs through similar policy and economic situations.
A Call for Action
This year’s World No Tobacco Day centers on encouraging countries to prioritize appropriate levels of tobacco taxation as a means to decrease use, thus protecting present and future generations from the harms of tobacco. Tobacco taxation is inexpensive, highly cost-effective, and has a significant public health impact. People like Mehmet serve as tangible reminders of the realities of tobacco use. Let’s not dismiss the value of these individuals’ contributions to their communities and society by failing to act with urgency. By doing all that we can to support protective measures that discourage tobacco use, like tobacco taxation, more lives will be saved from the deadly consequences of tobacco use.
- World Lung Foundation Cessation Campaign Videos
- Today’s Zaman: Anti-smoking ads boost calls to quit tobacco hotline
- WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2013
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