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Raising Tobacco Taxes by 50% Would Save 11 Million Lives: WHO

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Increasing tobacco taxes by 50 percent would reduce the number of smokers by 49 million in the next three years, and save 11 million lives, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.

WHO called on governments to raise tobacco taxes to prevent people from starting to smoke, and to encourage smokers to quit, according to CNBC.

“Raising taxes on tobacco is the most effective way to reduce use and save lives,” Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO’s Director-General, said in a statement. “Determined action on tobacco tax policy hits the industry where it hurts.”

Increasing tobacco taxes is an especially effective strategy to discourage young people from starting to smoke, since they often have more limited incomes, WHO noted.

“Price increases are two to three times more effective in reducing tobacco use among young people than among older adults,” said Dr Douglas Bettcher, Director of the Department for Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases at WHO. “Tax policy can be divisive, but this is the tax rise everyone can support. As tobacco taxes go up, death and disease go down.”

Tobacco taxes also benefit governments by increasing revenue, according to WHO. The organization calculated that if all countries increased tobacco taxes by 50 percent per pack, governments would earn an extra $101 billion in global revenue.

France tripled its inflation-adjusted cigarette prices between the early 1990s and 2005, and saw tobacco sales fall by more than 50 percent. The country also saw a decrease in the number of young men who were dying from lung cancer.

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