UN Conference urges governments to consider taxing tobacco to finance development

Thursday 16 July 2015

Governments worldwide should consider using tobacco taxation as a tool to finance sustainable development and save lives, says the declaration of a major UN conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“Price and tax measures on tobacco can be an effective and important means to reduce tobacco consumption and health care costs, and represent a revenue stream for financing for development in many countries,” says the declaration, which was adopted at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) on Wednesday. [1]

The Addis Ababa declaration was released roughly two months before world leaders are expected to adopt the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), at the United Nations General Assembly in September. It provides initial guidance on how to mobilize resources for the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. The SDGs will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as the blueprint for global development for the next 15 years. [2]

One of the targets of the SDGs health goal is to accelerate implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The convention has 180 Parties, representing nearly 90 percent of the world’s population.[3]

In a report released on 7 July, the WHO stressed that tobacco taxation, as outlined in guidelines to FCTC Article 6, is the most effective, and cost effective, measure to reduce tobacco consumption. [4] A 2014 study found that tripling tobacco taxes around the world could reduce the number of smokers by 433 million people and prevent 200 million premature deaths from lung cancer and other smoking related diseases.[5]

The FfD Declaration says Parties should strengthen implementation of the FCTC and support mechanisms to raise awareness and mobilize resources for the convention.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said:

“The UK, as a world leader both in development and in tobacco control has a key role to play in helping support implementation of the FCTC, particularly in low and middle income countries. We have particular expertise in tobacco taxation, with some of the highest taxes in the world combined with a comprehensive and effective strategy to tackle the illicit trade. This would also dovetail neatly with HM Revenue and Custom’s commitment in its new anti-smuggling strategy to ‘create a hostile global environment for tobacco fraud’.” [6]

Notes and Links:

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see: www.ash.org.uk/about-ash
ASH receives core funding from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

[1] Third International Conference on Financing for Development Addis Ababa, 13-16 July 2015 http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/CONF.227/L.1

[2] Zero draft of the outcome document for the UN Summit to adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda Goal 3.a. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/7261Post-2015%20Summit%20-%202%20June%202015.pdf

[3] WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control http://www.who.int/fctc/treaty_instruments/en/
[4] WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2015 http://www.who.int/tobacco/global_report/2015/en/
[5] Jha P & Peto R. Global Effects of Smoking, of Quitting, and of Taxing Tobacco. NEJM N Engl J Med 2014; 370:60-68 http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1308383
[6] HMRC and UK Border Force. Tackling Illicit Tobacco. From Leaf to Light. March 2015. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tackling-illicit-tobacco-from-leaf-to-light

Contact: Deborah Arnott 020 7404 0242 (w) or 07976 935 987 (m)