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The single most cost-effective way to save lives in developing countries is in the hands of developing countries themselves: raising tobacco taxes. In fact, raising tobacco taxes is better than cost-effective. It saves lives while increasing revenues and saving poor households money when their members quit smoking. Yet tobacco companies have delayed or undermined efforts to raise tobacco taxes, using their substantial financial resources to intimidate and resist this fundamental public health measure. Focused and coordinated international action is needed to support governments so they can resist tobacco company strategies and implement large, effective tobacco taxes aimed at reducing smoking and premature death for 1 billion people in this century.
This policy paper summarizes important facts about tobacco consumption in developing countries, evidence on the effectiveness of tobacco taxation, and responses to the most common objections to raising tobacco taxes. It relies on medical, social and economic research into the impact of tobacco consumption and the effectiveness of different measures. It also draws from ongoing initiatives aimed to strengthen tobacco control. It concludes by describing the kinds of taxes that are most effective at reducing tobacco consumption and discussing the resources for and constraints upon international efforts to support tobacco tax increases.