Tobacco control measures found to be cost-effective, says WHO report

Cancer Research UK

A report from the National Cancer Institute in the US and the World Health Organisation has found that tobacco control measures are highly cost-effective, but under-used in some countries. 

The report also states that tobacco control doesn’t harm economies, and reduces the impact smoking has on poorer communities. 

“Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the world"George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK

Tobacco control measures include tax increases, bans on advertising, including health warnings on packages, policies to restrict where people can smoke and programmes to help them quit.     

“This valuable report highlights the substantial financial cost of tobacco,” said George Butterworth, tobacco policy manager at Cancer Research UK. “It’s good to see that the most cost effective measures - tobacco tax and price increases - are being called for as part of comprehensive tobacco control strategies.”

Smoking accounts for 1 in 4 UK cancer deaths and nearly 1 in 5 of all cancer cases. 

“The human cost of the tobacco industry is enormous,” said Butterworth. “Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the world, killing almost 6 million people worldwide and 100,000 people in the UK each year.”

The report states that, while effective measures to reduce smoking rates are available, they don’t yet cover the vast majority of the world’s population. And where taxes are used, the money is rarely invested in health programmes. 

The report also finds that people in poorer communities stand to benefit most from tobacco control measures, due to the proportion of income spent on tobacco and negative health effects it causes in these areas.

In the UK, a ban on smoking in public places as well as tobacco advertising restrictions, including picture warnings of health issues and standardised packaging, are all in place. 

“Cancer Research UK’s ambition to see a Tobacco-Free country by 2035, where less than 5 per cent of adults smoke, is in line with the UK’s commitment to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” Butterworth added. 

But Stop Smoking Services across England are facing ongoing budget cuts after 6 in 10 local authorities were forced to reduce their funding in the last year.

Illegal trade, and the fact that 5 tobacco companies account for 85% of the global cigarette market, were both highlighted by the report as challenges for future control efforts.

The report also warns against relaxing the progress made across the world in controlling tobacco, and calls for continued research and use of evidence-based policies. 

Dr Robert Croyle, Director of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, said: “The global scale of suffering, death, and disease from tobacco use is staggering. Millions of early deaths can be prevented if nations adopt evidence-based tobacco control policies.”

References

NCI Tobacco Control Monograph Series 21 - The Economics of Tobacco and Tobacco Control. 2017 National Cancer Institute and World Health Organisation.