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WHO: Cigarette price hike could save 49m lives

Increasing tobacco taxation would be the most effective way to cut the number of smokers, the World Health Organization (WHO) has claimed. 

WHO has estimated that increasing worldwide prices on cigarettes by 50% would result in 49 million fewer smokers.

Increasing tobacco taxes could be a large source of revenue for the government, which in turn can be used to improve healthcare services, WHO said. 

The largest demographic to be affected by rising tobacco prices is the youth, with taxation resulting in a reduced consumption rate of 2-3 times higher than in that adults.

France has seen a fall in death rates by 50% in men between 35 and 44 since 1996 after tripling their prices on cigarettes between 1990s and 2005.

And Turkey increased their taxes by 84.2% since 2008 and implemented an indoor smoking ban, resulting in a 13% fall in smoking.

Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe said: “Taxes are never popular, yet they are our strongest ally in saving lives through tobacco control. In 26 of our 53 Member States tax represents 75% or more of the retail price of cigarettes, and we would urge the remaining 27 to follow suit. 

“Taxing tobacco saves lives and generates income that a Member State can invest in public health: it's a 'win-win' solution.” 

Health benefits are seen soon after smoking cessation, with the risk of coronary heart disease being reduced by half in just one year.

The risk of lung cancer is reduced to around half of that of a smoker after 10 years of smoking cessation.  

On average, increasing the price of tobacco by 10% results in a reduction in smoking of around 4-5%.

There are 56 countries within the WHO European Region and 26 of them adhere to this recommendation, making Europe the leading region in tobacco taxation and prices compared with other WHO regions.