The Opportunity

24 Jun 2013

Many countries in the world have no deliberate, explicit tobacco tax policy. The vast majority have some form of tobacco tax, which is adjusted from time to time depending on revenue needs and the strength of tobacco industry lobbying. But few have any stated policy on what they are trying to achieve with tobacco taxation — in particular, how much of an impact they wish to have on health.

That could be about to change. In November 2012, the vast majority of the world’s countries agreed on a very important concept: Every country should have a long-term tobacco tax policy, including target tax rates tied to specific [health] objectives.

The agreement on the need to establish tax targets was reached at the fifth session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, with the adoption of recommendations on Article 6 (tax and price measures).

COP5 Main Website

This provides public health advocates around the world with a unique opportunity to talk to their respective national governments about tobacco tax policy and, hopefully, to get them to publicly commit to higher tobacco tax rates.

Parties should establish coherent long-term policies on their tobacco taxation structure and monitor on a regular basis including targets for their tax rates, in order to achieve their public health and fiscal objectives within a certain period of time.

Tax rates should be monitored, increased or adjusted on a regular basis, potentially annually, taking into account inflation and income growth developments in order to reduce consumption of tobacco products.

— Set of guiding principles and recommendations for implementation of Article 6 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, adopted unanimously on 17 November 2012.

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