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Views from the Center

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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.