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Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

Can Taxes Postpone Millions of Deaths Worldwide? A New Task Force Led by Michael Bloomberg and Lawrence Summers Inquires

This week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers announced a new Task Force on Fiscal Policy for Health. This is the first time such a high-level group of respected economic and fiscal policy opinion leaders has convened on this issue, creating an opportunity to acknowledge the importance of taxes for promoting health and to take action to save lives.

The World’s Most Profitable Slow-Motion Disaster: Tobacco

In April, I attended a very hopeful event sponsored by the World Bank entitled, “Tobacco Taxation Win-Win for Public Health and Domestic Resources Mobilization.” My optimism was buoyed by seeing people from different ministries, disciplines, and perspectives all recognizing the need to raise tobacco taxes and sharing ideas on how to reduce the death toll from smoking. Then the bubble burst. I got home and saw a Wall Street Journal article about the increasing profitability of cigarette corporations in the US domestic market—a reminder that, unbelievably, we are still on the defensive against this large, growing, and completely avoidable disaster.

The IMF Finally Speaks on Tobacco Taxes

Last November, the IMF released a workable guide to issues that come up when a country decides to raise tobacco taxes. This is a big step. As far as I know, this is the first public statement from the IMF on tobacco taxes since 1999. Yet while it recognizes the health effects of reducing tobacco consumption, the technical note never addresses how you would make sure that tobacco taxes reduce smoking.

Tobacco Control or Eradication: Are ENDS part of an endgame?

Is the tobacco epidemic more like smallpox or HIV? It’s an important question. If it is like smallpox, then we can pursue strategies to eradicate tobacco as a risk to human health. However, if it is like HIV, we instead need to be thinking in terms of controlling and managing the epidemic.

The World Bank Keeps Missing Opportunities to Save Lives and Mobilize Domestic Revenues

I have argued that tobacco taxes are the single best health policy that any country could implement. The World Bank is the most prominent organization in the world with the skills, mandate, and network to support raising tobacco taxes in developing countries where the number of smokers and shortened lives is increasing every year. Yet, the World Bank has committed far too little to this effort. One of the key reasons is that World Bank management has let this best-buy for development fall between the cracks – tobacco is a health issue and taxes are a fiscal policy issue.

What’s New in Tobacco Control?

Saturday was World No Tobacco Day which prompted me to ask: “What’s new?” After looking at the press releases, I decided that the most significant thing that happened last year was that another 30 million young people have started smoking around the world. Of these, 25 million are in low- and middle-income countries and about 12 million of them will die prematurely from disease linked to tobacco – 10% of them because of second-hand smoke. This epidemic is not caused by a virus or spread by mosquitoes. It is intentionally planned and profited from by large tobacco companies – for-profit multinationals as well as state-owned monopolies.