Adding a 50 percent 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 percent 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 percent of adults use tobacco by 2040.