Smoking: Increasing price of cigarettes by 50% can save 450 million years of life, study suggests

A study which appears in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) noted that a 50 per cent increase in cigarette prices would lead to about 450 million years of life gained through smoking cessation. The study was conducted 13 countries middle income countries and had 500 million male smokers as its participants

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  • The study was based on the model of ‘Compartmental model study.’
  • Male smokers from 13 middle income countries, totaling two billion men had participated in the study.

As per the World Health Organization, the use of tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year, and more than 6 million of those deaths, are the result of direct tobacco use while, around 8.90 lakh are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

A study published in British Medical Journal, focuses on increasing the cost of cigarettes and life years gained, averted treatment costs, number of men avoiding catastrophic healthcare expenditures and poverty.

Key findings of the study:

  • Men in the bottom income group (poorest 20 per cent of the population) would gain 6.7 times more life years than men in the top income group (richest 20 per cent of the population; 155 vs. 23 million).
  • The average life years gained from cessation for each smoker in the bottom income group was 5.1 times that of the top group (1.46 vs. 0.23 years).
  • Of the 157 billion dollars (113 billion pounds; 127 billion euros) in averted treatment costs, the bottom income group would avert 4.6 times more costs than the top income group ($46bn vs. $10bn).
  • About 15.5 million men would avoid catastrophic health expenditures in a subset of seven countries without universal health coverage.
  • As result, 8.8 million men, half of them in the bottom income group, would avoid falling below the World Bank’s definition of extreme poverty.

Doctors and the crusaders working for a tobacco-free India have been demanding high tax burden on tobacco products.

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr Ravi Mehrotra, Director, National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research said, “Tax increase is the foremost measure to reduce tobacco use. The WHO suggests minimum 70% of the retail price should ideally be composed of taxes. However, in India it averages just about 26%, which must be increased urgently.”

The study was conducted, in 13 middle income countries in Latin America and Asia. In some countries, such as Indonesia, smoking prevalence was noticeably lower in higher income groups, whereas in Bangladesh and India, cigarette smoking prevalence was similar across income groups.

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Head and Neck surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital Mumbai, said, “Bidis are the bigger problem in India. It kills around 6 lakhs people every year. Unfortunately, bidi is either taxed low or evades tax. It is time to put the same level of high taxes across all tobacco products.”

Source: The BMJ