At What Cost? The Economic Impact of Tobacco Use on National Health Systems, Societies and Individuals : A Summary of Methods and Findings

By The World Bank | Go to book overview

Chapter 6:
Conclusions and
Recommendations

6.1 Conclusions

The importance of tobacco use as a global public health problem is indisputable. Moreover, the studies reviewed in this report confirm that cigarette smoking and other tobacco consumption also exact a severe economic toll on developed and developing countries. Tobacco use leads to poor health for those affected, to loss of productivity due to poor health, and to increased consumption of societal resources, especially in the health-care sector.

Tobacco use has a particularly severe economic impact on the developing world. Resources are relatively scarce in developing country contexts, and expenditures on tobacco consumption and tobacco-related illnesses compete in clear and often poignant ways with other social priorities. Moreover, the magnitude of the problem is increasing. Projected global trends show that developing nations are likely to experience by far the largest growth in tobacco consumption, disease and death over the coming two decades. The economic toll associated with this growth is likely to be significant, and can impede country development objectives.

Yet, as this review demonstrates, many tobacco control policies and interventions have been shown to be both effective and cost-effective. To recap, the evidence suggests that macroeconomic interventions such as tobacco taxation policies are an effective means of lowering cigarette consumption due to the inverse relationship between tobacco price and consumption. Considerable scope exists for expanding these policies in developing countries. It should be noted, however, that some evidence suggests that higher tobacco taxes could lead to increased demand for liquor, or to higher consumption of smokeless tobacco.

Another effective measure in reducing the demand for tobacco products is the banning of tobacco advertising. However, compared to taxation strategies, the evidence on the effectiveness of advertising bans as a sole policy instrument is equivocal, and suggests that bans are more effective when implemented as part of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy.

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