World No Tobacco Day 2017: Beating tobacco for health, prosperity, the environment and national development

31 May 2017


World No Tobacco Day 2017
World No Tobacco Day 2017 "Tobacco – a threat to development"

31 May 2017 – HANOI: Action to stamp out tobacco use can help countries prevent millions of people falling ill and dying from tobacco-related disease, combat poverty and, according to a first-ever WHO report, reduce large-scale environmental degradation.

On World No Tobacco Day 2017, the World Health Organization is highlighting how tobacco threatens the development of nations worldwide, and is calling on governments to implement strong tobacco control measures. These include banning marketing and advertising of tobacco, promoting plain packaging of tobacco products, raising excise taxes and making indoor public places and workplaces smoke-free.

Tobacco’s health and economic costs

Tobacco use kills more than 7 million people every year and costs households and governments over US$1.4 trillion through healthcare expenditure and lost productivity.

“Tobacco threatens us all,” says WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr Shin Young-soo. “Tobacco exacerbates poverty, reduces economic productivity, diverts limited household resources to purchase tobacco products rather than food and school materials, forcing many people to pay for medical expenses”.

Dr Shin adds: “But by taking robust tobacco control measures, governments can safeguard their countries’ futures by protecting tobacco users and non-users from these deadly products, generating revenues to fund health and other social services, and saving their environments from the ravages tobacco causes.”

All countries have committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to strengthen universal peace and eradicate poverty. Key elements of this agenda include implementing the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and by 2030 reducing by one-third premature death from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including heart and lung diseases, cancer and diabetes, for which tobacco use is a key risk factor.

In Viet Nam, more than 40,000 people die of tobacco use each year. According to a WHO estimate, this number may increase up to 70,000 tobacco-related deaths each year if preventive action is not taken. The economic loss of tobacco is estimated at more than 24600 billion VND or 1.17 billion USD, each year. The health and economic impact of tobacco accumulates with time, so action is needed now to prevent an increasing trend of tobacco related mortality and economic losses in the years to come.

Tobacco scars the environment

The first-ever WHO report, Tobacco and its environmental impact: an overview, also shows the impact of this product on nature, including:

  • Tobacco waste contains over 7000 toxic chemicals including human carcinogen that poison the environment.
  • Tobacco smoke emissions contribute to thousands of tons of human carcinogens, toxicants and greenhouse gases to the environment. And tobacco waste is the largest type of litter by count globally.
  • Up to 10 billion of the 15 billion cigarettes sold daily are disposed in the environment.
  • Cigarette butts account for 30-40% of all items collected in coastal and urban clean-ups.

Tobacco threatens women, children and livelihoods

  • Poverty: Around 860 million adult smokers live in low- and middle-income countries. Many studies have shown that in the poorest households, spending on tobacco products often represents more than 10% of total household expenditure – meaning less money for food, education and healthcare.
  • Children and education: Tobacco farming stops children from attending school. 10%-14% of children from tobacco-growing families miss class because of working in tobacco fields.
  • Women: 60%-70% of tobacco farm workers are women, putting them in close contact with often hazardous chemicals.
  • Health: Tobacco contributes to 16% of all NCD deaths.

Taxation: a powerful tobacco control tool

“Many countries have taken action against tobacco, from restricting advertising and marketing, to introducing smoke-free work and public places,” says WHO Country Representative to Viet Nam Dr Lokky Wai. “But one of the most effective tobacco control measures to help address development needs is through increasing tobacco tax and prices.”

Governments worldwide collect nearly US$270 billion in tobacco excise tax revenues each year, but this could increase by over 50%, generating an additional US$ 141 billion, simply from raising taxes on cigarettes by just US$0.80 per pack (equivalent to one international dollar) in all countries. Increased tobacco taxation revenues will strengthen domestic resource mobilization, creating the fiscal space needed for countries to meet development priorities under the 2030 Agenda.

Viet Nam is among the countries with the lowest level of tobacco tax, as it accounts for only around 40% of the retail price, falling short of the world average of 58% and much lower than WHO’s recommendation of 75% of retail price.

“When tobacco tax is increased, it will lead to the reduction in smoking and at the same time, help increase government tax income. Therefore, a tax increase is a win-win for both public health and government revenue” said Dr Wai.

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