The international tobacco industry makes about £30 billion in profits each year – a profit of approximately £6,000 per death from smoking.
Tripling tobacco taxes around the world could cut smoking by a third and prevent 200 million premature deaths by the end of this century, researchers claim. In the European Union, a doubling of cigarette prices would prevent 100,000 deaths a year in the under-70s.
The new tax 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. In high-income countries, 50 to 60 per cent of the price of a pack of cigarettes is tax. But in low- and middle-income countries, tax makes up only 30 to 40 per cent of the cost. Tripling tobacco taxes would also increase global government revenues from tobacco by a third, from £180bn a year to £240bn, said the researchers.
“Globally, about half of all young men and one in ten 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 by 90 per cent.”