The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Tax Toolkit

Copenhagen: a target for shifting commuters to bicycles

City planners in much of the world have long worked with quantitative forecasts of traffic flows, which are needed to calculate future transport and infrastructure needs. Because of concerns about air pollution and greenhouse gases (and more recently, about physical fitness), an increasing number of municipalities also track modal share — the percentage of trips made by car, by public transit, by walking or by bicycle.

In the case of Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, there is a modal share target that has received considerable attention at home and abroad: the city plans to ensure that by 2015, 50 percent of commuting trips are made by bicycle.1 In fact, Copenhagen has had cycling-related targets since at least 2000, when it committed to boosting the modal share of cycling from 34 percent to 40 percent (by 2012).

The city also has targets for cyclists’ feeling of safety, for comfort (in terms of the state of cycling lanes and paths) and for travel times. To increase commuting speeds by bicycle — and to relieve bottlenecks on major cycling routes — the municipal government is investing in a network of extra-wide cycling “super highways”.

Interestingly, it appears Copenhagen may not have met its initial modal share target for 2012. However, having a widely available and discussed cycling plan with numerical targets has helped ensure the role of bicycles in local transport has a high profile in public debates, provoked discussions about various obstacles to increased cycling (such as traffic jams and lack of parking), and may have made it politically easier to scale up public investments in cycling infrastructure.

It is also worth noting that Copenhagen (along with Amsterdam, in the Netherlands) is widely cited in discussions about bicycle commuting around the world, with municipal leaders from several countries going on fact-finding tours of the city to look for inspiration — and sometimes copying the idea of a modal share target.

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1. City of Copenhagen. Good, Better, Best: The City of Copenhagen’s Bicycle Strategy 2011-2025.

Successful target-setting in Brazil

The Millennium Development Goals, which flowed out of the September 2000 Millennium Declaration at the United Nations, commit the countries of the world to “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.”1 The target on poverty, to be reached by 2015, is to halve the percentage of the population living in extreme poverty. The target on hunger, also for 2015, is to halve the proportion of the population living in hunger.

In 2003, Brazilians elected Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as president, and he promised to exceed the MDG targets in Brazil by reducing extreme poverty by three-quarters and by eliminating hunger by 2015.

The Brazilian government invested heavily in a number of social welfare programmes, notably the Bolsa Família (which provides payments to families meeting certain conditions, in particular school attendance by children) and various food distribution programmes. Predictably, some opposition politicians attacked the implementation of some of these measures as inefficient or as a form of vote-buying. However, it was very difficult for any political party to suggest that eradicating hunger and extreme poverty was a bad idea.

Seven years later, in its official report to the United Nations2, Brazil claimed to have reduced the percentage of its population living in extreme poverty from 14 percent in 2001 to 4.8 percent in 2008. The percentage of children under five suffering from low body weight (a classic symptom of undernutrition) had fallen from 4.2 percent in 1996 to 1.8 percent in 2006. In 2008, 16.8 million Brazilians received food from the largest food distribution programme, the PAA.

In fairness, a number of social indicators were already improving under previous governments, in part thanks to rapid economic growth. But there can be little doubt that the high-profile hunger and poverty reduction targets helped shift public debate towards a strong consensus that further, vigorous action was needed.

The Brazilian presidency has been under the control of the same political party since 2003. However, even if a different party came to power, it would find it politically very difficult to abandon these high-profile poverty and hunger targets.

 

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1. See United Nations Millennium Goals for more information

2. Presidência da República. Objetivos de Desenvolvimento do Milênio. March 2010. Available on-line.

APPENDIX 3

Sample letter requesting a meeting with finance officials

I am writing on behalf of The Public Good, a non-profit organization, well-established with over xx members, working for cost-effective governance in public health, to request a meeting with you to discuss tobacco taxation.

Tobacco use is of particular concern to our organization. We note that the single most effective measure in reducing tobacco use is affordability. This is a factor that can be influenced through taxation policy.

As you may know, the Republic of Fantastica is a Party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an internationally binding treaty that obliges us to keep public health objectives in mind when we set tobacco tax rates.

The Republic of Fantastica currently has low tobacco taxes, amounting to only 20% of the retail price of cigarettes (which account for 99% of all tobacco sales). Prices are much lower than in all neighbouring countries, and there has been no increase in the tobacco tax in 12 years. Youth smoking has been rising for the last 10 years, while annual revenue from tobacco taxes has been declining in real (inflation-adjusted) per capita terms.

We have examined evidence from several neighbouring countries showing that large increases in tobacco taxes could be expected to slow, and perhaps reverse, the increase in youth smoking, while also significantly increasing the government’s tax revenue.

Tripling tobacco taxes would leave cigarette prices substantially lower than in neighbouring Publichealthland, but it would still have a big impact on prevalence and should allow the government to at least double tobacco tax revenue.

We would like to discuss with you possible models for a long-term tobacco tax target with regular increases, in line with Fantastica’s obligations under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. We see this as a rare opportunity to improve public health while also locking in revenue gains for the government.

I look forward to your earliest response, etc. etc.

APPENDIX 4

Calculating what needs to happen to meet a particular target

While government authorities have the responsibility of working out the policy details of targets, it will be helpful if you can calculate some ballpark figures to make a convincing case.

One tool to help do this is a web-based simulation tool developed by van Walbeek at the University of South Africa.41

This tool lets you enter different variables or assumptions about the impact of tax increases, and calculates various predicted outcomes.

For example, you can enter the population of your country, adult smoking prevalence, estimated elasticity and proposed tax increase amount to calculate the annual or long-term impact of the increase on consumption reduction, smoking prevalence reduction, and increase in government revenue. If you don’t have data from your own country, you can use data (such as prevalence and elasticity) from elsewhere that you would expect are similar for your country.

You can use the tool in two ways:

  1. If you set a tobacco use or public health target (for example, “Cut current adult smoking prevalence in half within 10 years”), you can then enter various combinations of data to find out how much the tax rate would have to increase by each year to achieve that target. This calculation lays out the fiscal policy the government needs to commit to if it expects to achieve the target.
  2. If you set a tax or affordability target (for example, “Increase the tobacco excise rate per stick by 10% each year for 5 years, adjusted for inflation and income), you can enter the proposed tax increase information to predict what impact this will have on smoking prevalence and tobacco-caused disease. If the impact is less than ideal, you can use this information to call for higher, more rapid tax increases.

41 Van Walbeek C. A simulation model to predict the fiscal and public health impact of a change in cigarette excise taxes. Tobacco Control 2010;19:31-36.