TOBACCO: WHO Calls for Cigarette Taxes in Third World
The World Health Organization and World Bank will release a report next week, recommending that developing countries raise cigarette taxes in an effort to halt tobacco companies' attempts to expand into new markets. The Bloomberg News/Winston-Salem Journal reports that with the "rise in lawsuits and regulations" against the tobacco industry, cigarette manufacturers are turning to developing nations, particularly in Asia and the former Soviet Union, as a "new revenue source." While interest in smoking has waned in the United States and Europe, research shows that tobacco popularity has grown in Asian and African countries, with 80% of the 1.1 billion smokers living in developing countries and U.S. tobacco companies exporting $5 billion in tobacco products each year. According to WHO, an estimated four million tobacco-related mortalities are reported each year -- a number predicted to rise to 10 million within the next 30 years, with 70% of these deaths to occur in developing nations. However, Big Tobacco's international expansion efforts have spurred a "counterattack" from activists and international organizations -- especially from the WHO, which for two years has been leading a campaign against tobacco smoking in developing countries. Moreover, Gro Harlem Brundtland, head of WHO, is seeking a global treaty on smoking to create "tough" restrictions on tobacco advertising and marketing. According to Joy de Beyer, the World Bank's tobacco control coordinator, the World Bank/WHO report estimates that a 10% tax on cigarettes has the potential to decrease consumption by high-income smokers by 4% and low-income smokers by 8%. "People with lower incomes and younger people really tend to be quite price-sensitive," she said (8/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.