Pubdate: Wed, 19 May 1999
Source: Toronto Star (Canada)
Copyright: 1999, The Toronto Star
Author: Tim Harper, Toronto Star Ottawa Bureau
TAX HIKES TURN TEENS OFF SMOKING: STUDYHigher prices save lives, World Bank
report says

OTTAWA - Some 10 million tobacco-related deaths could have been prevented
over the past four years if cigarette taxes were hiked 10 per cent per
package, the World Bank reported yesterday.

In a report released to health ministers meeting in Geneva, the bank argues
that tax hikes are the most effective means of stopping adolescents from

The study also attempts to dismiss fears that tax hikes could decrease tax
revenues by reducing the number of smokers and says fears of massive
smuggling operations should not be an argument against tax hikes.

``Rather than forgoing tax increases,'' the report states, ``the appropriate
response to smuggling is to crack down on criminal activity.''

It was the smuggling concerns that led to massive tobacco tax rollbacks in
Canada, particularly in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces in 1994.

In Ontario, for example, the price of a carton of 200 cigarettes was rolled
back by $19.20.

Since then, Ottawa and Queen's Park have added only $3.20 to the cost of
that carton through taxes.

``It's completely baffling to us why the federal and provincial governments
have not raised tobacco taxes,'' said Rob Cunningham of the Canadian Cancer

``There is compelling data available on the effect on adolescent smoking.

``We are in a position now where a carton of cigarettes in the United States
is now $15 more expensive than in Canada.''

The bank report was released at the World Health Assembly, a body made up of
health ministers around the world and the governing body of the World Health

Ottawa's delegation is led by Toronto MP Elinor Caplan, parliamentary
secretary to federal Health Minister Allan Rock.

British Columbia's Penny Priddy, the first provincial health minister to try
to recoup health-care costs from tobacco companies, was scheduled to deliver
an address to international delegates.

The World Bank says smoking already kills one in 10 adults worldwide, but
that number will rise to one in six by 2030.

The heaviest tolls are shifting toward the world's poorest countries and the
World Bank now says within 20 years, seven of 10 people killed by smoking
will be in low-income and middle-income nations.

``The most effective way to deter children from taking up smoking is to
increase taxes on tobacco,'' the World Bank says in its report.

``High prices prevent some children and adolescents from starting and
encourage those who already smoke to reduce their consumption.''

Evidence from all countries also shows higher taxes induce adult smokers to
quit and reduce the number of ex-smokers who begin again.

A 10 per cent tax increase would reduce consumption by 4 per cent -
worldwide that would mean 40 million smokers would have quit by now if the
hike had been implemented in 1995.

Eight of 10 smokers in more prosperous, industrialized nations, such as
Canada, begin in their teens, the study says.

Smoking-related health-care costs account for 6 to 15 per cent of total
governmental spending on an annual basis, the report says.

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