ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) — Researchers claim in a new review published in the New England Journal of Medicine that tripling cigarette taxes worldwide would save 200 million lives.

Dr. Prabhat Jha, director of the Center for Global Health Research of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, and Sir Richard Peto, professor at the University of Oxford, wrote in the review that the tax increase would encourage people to stop smoking instead of switching to a cheaper brand of cigarette and would also cause young people not to pick up the habit at all.

“Death and taxes are inevitable, but they don’t need to be in that order,” Dr. Jha said in a press release. “A higher tax on tobacco is the single most effective intervention to lower smoking rates and to deter future smokers.”

According to numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 440,000 Americans die each year from smoking, including deaths from secondhand smoke.

“Worldwide, around a half-billion children and adults under the age of 35 are already – or soon will be – smokers and on current patterns few will quit,” Peto said in a press release. “So there’s an urgent need for governments to find ways to stop people starting and to help smokers give up. This study demonstrates that tobacco taxes are a hugely powerful lever and potentially a triple win – reducing the numbers of people who smoke and who die from their addiction, reducing premature deaths from smoking and yet, at the same time, increasing government income.”

Peto says that governments around the world should raise tobacco taxes above inflation and use steep tax hikes with their next budget.

“Young adult smokers will lose about a decade of life if they continue to smoke – they’ve so much to gain by stopping,” Peto stated.

The researchers found that many of those who die from smoking are still in middle age, meaning they lose about 20 years of life expectancy on average. Those who do quit smoking when they are young can add almost a decade of life they could have lost.

The review was published in the New England Journal of Medicine Thursday.


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