Tobacco tax fights cancer, heart disease

If countries spend as much as 4% of GDP on health, the world could close the gap between rich and poor countries by 2035, says the commission

A recent report published in The Lancet,  “Global Health 2035: A World Converging within a Generation,” focuses on strategies that governments can adopt to make dramatic health gains by 2035 and to reduce the health gap between rich and poor countries.

The report was developed by the Commission on Investing in Health, a group consisting of 25 leading economists and global health experts. The 68-page publication identifies NCDs as one of the main challenges facing global health today.

The commission advises that by heavily taxing tobacco and other harmful substances, such as alcohol, governments can both curb NCDs as well as raise significant revenue. According to the report, the tax increases need to be substantial in order to achieve the desired fall in consumption.

“Taxes – in combination with other government policies – have had a major impact on smoking in South Africa, with the number of smokers having decreased by about 50 percent in the past 20 years,” said Dehran Swart from the National Council Against Smoking  in a statement.

However, Swart adds that South Africa excise taxes on cigarettes remain low in comparison to World Health Organisation recommendations that such taxes comprise 70 percent of retail prices.

“The excise tax rate has changed negligibly since 1997 when Trevor Manuel set the rate at 50 percent of retail price,” Swart added. “The commission’s call for aggressive tobacco tax increases emphasises that South Africa’s tobacco tax policy is in urgent need of revision.”

The report also states that regulation can play an important role in decreasing NCDs, including implementing tobacco and alcohol advertising bans, smoke-free public places and heavy penalties for drunk driving. – Health-e News Service.

Take a look back at tobacco control through the years in South Africa



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