Tobacco remains one of the major risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, lung and cardiovascular diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that tobacco is responsible for the death of around seven million people across the globe every year.
Over the last two decades, there has been a significant reduction in the percentage of people smoking every day across the world, but the WHO says a lot more needs to be done to deter people from smoking cigarettes.
In a bid to curb consumption, governments have been enforcing stricter regulations on tobacco products and their usage.
Several countries are increasingly implementing strategies to tighten their tobacco policies in the hopes of deterring smoking, especially among young people.
Raising taxes on tobacco products is seen to be one of the least expensive and the most effective tools in countering the influence of tobacco companies. But it is also the least implemented, with only 10 percent of the world’s population currently living in countries with sufficiently high taxes.
A 2010 WHO report found that 78 percent of those aged 15 years and over in the WHO member states were non-smokers.
By 2025, the number of non-smokers is expected to rise to around 5 billion out of a projected 6.1 billion people aged 15 and over.
Currently, nearly a third of all men are smokers, making the prevalence of smoking among men considerably higher than among women. Over the past 30 years, smoking among men has decreased by 10 percent.
The price of a pack of cigarettes
Increasing prices and adding tax measures on tobacco products has been used to decrease the demand for cigarettes.
Many countries have successfully used tax policies to regulate the price of cigarette products. In Australia, a pack of cigarettes can cost up to $18, making it the most expensive country to buy cigarettes.
A report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in 2016 found that the smoking rate in the country was at an all time low. In the last 20 years, smoking had decreased by almost 50 percent.
The study showed that less than 13 percent of Australians are daily smokers and fewer people are starting to smoke.
The report cites Australia as having one of the lowest smoking rates in the world, in part because of their implementation of increased taxes on tobacco products, plain packaging, and more restrictive smoke-free environment laws.
Illicit trade in tobacco products
The tobacco industry and other interest groups argue that increased taxes on tobacco products allows an illicit black market trade in tobacco to thrive.
But the WHO says that high-income countries with taxes on tobacco products do not face widespread issues related to illicit trade, while low-income countries continue to do so, precisely because of weaker tobacco-control programmes and taxes. Nearly 80% of the world’s smokers live in low to middle-income countries.