World No Tobacco Day 2014: Raise Taxes on Tobacco

World Today

The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 6 million people each year, of which more than 600 000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke. Unless we act, the epidemic will kill more than 8 million people every year by 2030. More than 80% of these preventable deaths will be among people living in low-and middle-income countries. For World No Tobacco Day 2014, WHO and partners call on countries to raise taxes on tobacco.

Every year, on 31 May, WHO and partners mark World No Tobacco Day, highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. Tobacco kills nearly 6 million people each year, of which more than 600 000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke. For World No Tobacco Day 2014, WHO calls on countries to raise taxes on tobacco.


The ultimate goal of World No Tobacco Day is to contribute to protecting present and future generations not only from the devastating health consequences due to tobacco, but also from the social, environmental and economic scourges of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.

Specific goals of the 2014 campaign are that:
governments increase taxes on tobacco to levels that reduce tobacco consumption;
individuals and civil society organizations encourage their governments to increase taxes on tobacco to levels that reduce consumption.

The evidence is clear: Increasing the price of tobacco products is the most effective way to reduce smoking and other tobacco use, especially among vulnerable groups such as youth, pregnant women and low-income smokers. The evidence comes from throughout the United States (PDF) and around the world (PDF). Even tobacco companies admit it in their own internal documents.

Economic Research Confirms That Cigarette Tax Increases Reduce Smoking

Numerous economic studies in peer-reviewed journals have documented that cigarette tax or price increases reduce both adult and underage smoking. The general consensus is that every 10 percent increase in the real price of cigarettes reduces overall cigarette consumption by approximately three to five percent, reduces the number of young-adult smokers by 3.5 percent, and reduces the number of kids who smoke by six or seven percent.

Research studies have also found that:

  • Cigarette price and tax increases work even more effectively to reduce smoking among males, Blacks,  Hispanics, and lower-income smokers.
  • A cigarette tax increase that raises prices by ten percent will reduce smoking among pregnant women by seven percent, preventing thousands of spontaneous abortions and still-born births, and saving tens of thousands of newborns from suffering from smoking-affected births and related health consequences.
  • Higher taxes on smokeless tobacco reduce its use, particularly among young males; and increasing cigar prices through tax increases reduce adult and youth cigar smoking.
  • Cigarette price increases not only reduce youth smoking but also reduce both the number of kids who smoke marijuana and the amount of marijuana consumed by continuing users.
  • By reducing smoking levels, cigarette tax increases reduce secondhand smoke exposure among nonsmokers, especially children and pregnant women.

Most counties and cities do not have their own cigarette tax rates, but there are major exceptions. In U.S., more than 430 local jurisdictions have their own cigarette tax rates, bringing in about half a billion dollars in annual revenue and working effectively to reduce smoking rates, especially among youth. Here are some cities which have highest cigarette tax jurisdictions taking all state and local cigarette taxes into consideration.

Cigarette Tax Rates

These combined cigarette tax rates do not include the federal cigarette tax ($1.01 per pack) or any state or local sales taxes that apply to cigarettes. U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimates show that total smoking-caused health costs and lost productivity totals more than $10.47 per pack nationwide. The average state cigarette tax rate is $1.53 per pack.

Increasing U.S. Cigarette Prices and Declining Consumption

Although there are many other factors involved, comparing the trends in cigarette prices and overall U.S.  cigarette consumption from 1970 to 2007 shows that there is a strong correlation between increasing prices and decreasing consumption.

U.S cigarette prices vs Consumption 1970-2007
While U.S. cigarette prices are largely controlled by the cigarette companies’ price-setting decisions, from 1970 to 2006, the federal tax on cigarettes also increased from eight cents to 39 cents per pack and the average state cigarette tax increased from 10 cents to $1.07 per pack during that time period. Without these federal and state tax increases, U.S. cigarette prices would be much lower and U.S. smoking levels would be much higher.

Prices and Youth Smoking Rates

The chart below shows how closely youth smoking prevalence is to cigarette pack prices. As prices climbed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, youth smoking rates declined, but as the price decreased between 2003 and 2005 (along with funding for tobacco prevention programs in many states), youth rates increased. Even the slight increase in price between 2005 and 2007 corresponds with a decline in youth smoking rates.

Researchers found that the 61.66-cent federal cigarette tax rate increase on April 1, 2009 had a substantial and immediate impact on youth smoking. The percentage of students who reported smoking in the past 30 days dropped between 9.7 percent and 13.3 percent immediately following the tax increase, resulting in an estimated 220,000 and 287,000 fewer current smokers among middle and high school students in May 2009.

U.S Youth Smoking Prevalence vs Cigarette Pack Price 1991-2011

CCTV’s James Chau calls for raise taxes on tobacco on Instagram:

WHO released this video and calls for people to tell about their own campaign activities on Twitter using the hashtag #NoTobacco

Courtesy of The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and WHO.