China considering tobacco tax to reduce smoking deaths

Adding a 50% excise tax onto tobacco products in China which has the highest number of tobacco users in the world could significantly reduce smoking-related deaths while generating substantial financial risk protection and poverty alleviation benefits to households, according to a study led by a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researcher. While tobacco taxes have been criticized as unfairly impacting poorer people, who spend a higher percentage of their income on taxes than wealthy people, the researchers wrote that only about 14% of the tax income would come from the lowest income group, while 24% would come from the wealthiest group.

Increased tobacco taxation can be a pro-poor policy instrument that brings substantial health and financial benefits to households in China, especially concentrated among the poorest socio-economic groups,write the authors, led by Stéphane Verguet, assistant professor of global health, Department of Global Health and Population at Harvard Chan. “Since China’s economy has grown enormously, cigarettes have become cheaper to smokers, which means that more aggressive tobacco taxation is now needed.”

The study was published March 5, 2015 in The Lancet Global Health. It accompanied a series of articles published in The Lancet in which researchers called for a world in which less than 5% of adults use tobacco by 2040.

One million premature deaths were attributed to smoking in China in 2010. The leading causes of death stroke, ischemic heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were linked to tobacco consumption.

Read the study: The consequences of tobacco tax on household health and finances in rich and poor smokers in China: an extended cost-effectiveness analysis

Read a March 13, 2015 International Business Times article about the Lancet series: Health Experts Warn Of One Billion Deaths From Smoking Worldwide By 2100

Read a March 13, 2015 China Post article: Study paints mixed picture of global smoking trends