As part of the efforts to promote the adoption of tobacco taxes as a tobacco control measure and foster implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the Pan American Health Organization, The Secretariat of the FCTC, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the American Cancer Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, University of Chicago at Illinois and the International Development Research Center from Canada jointly organized a Training on the Economics of Tobacco Control for practitioners, researchers and advocates in Latin America and the Caribbean with the aim of providing platform to facilitate knowledge exchange among countries regarding experiences in increasing tobacco taxes, for researchers of the Latin-American and Caribbean (LAC) region to present innovative policy-oriented work, and for international stakeholders, researchers, and practitioners in tobacco taxation in the region to discuss evidence needs, collaboration and synergies. The training was held on 5-7 February, 2018.
Specific highlights of work presented and discussions in the meeting include:
- New independent and specific evidence from the region to counter the tobacco industry's arguments against increases in tobacco taxes (for example estimates of the size of illicit trade).
- Initiatives by member states to monitor the impact of tobacco taxes on consumption and income.
The need to establish new "messengers" beyond the traditional health sector to help include tobacco taxes in the agenda of fiscal policy-makers.
- The role of international financial institutions (World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and International Monetary Fund) in including tobacco taxes in the agenda of fiscal policy-makers.
- The need to establish tobacco taxes as a key contributor to the prevention of noncommunicable diseases and hence to ensuring the medium to long term viability of health systems in the region.
Ultimately, the meeting showcased that the region of the Americas possess the capacity to generate the evidence needed by governments to successfully implement tobacco taxation policies in consistency with the FCTC. By creating a coordinating mechanisms for practitioners, researchers, and civil society in order to maximize available resources, as well as capitalize on existing synergies, the region can expect to move towards benefiting from the full potential of tobacco taxation policies.
Tobacco epidemic: a threat to health and development
The tobacco epidemic poses a tremendous risk to both health and development. Globally the cost of smoking alone is estimated to be US$ 1400 billion, or 1.8% of global gross domestic product (GDP) , representing a major barrier to sustainable development by impacting health, poverty, global hunger, education, economic growth, gender equality, the environment, finance and governance. The financial impact of smoking on health systems in Latin America alone amount to nearly 1% (US $33.576 billion) of the regions gross domestic product (GDP) . Recognizing the tremendous barrier that tobacco poses to development, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contain a tobacco-control specific target of Strengthening the implementation of the World Health Organization FCTC in all countries (target 3.a).
Tobacco taxes are widely recognized as effective means of reducing consumption of current smokers (both number of users and quantity smoked) and delaying and preventing the consumption of tobacco among youth, while simultaneously generating revenue that can be used to finance development. In fact, The Addis Ababa Action Agenda emphasizes the importance of tobacco control for revenue generation to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Nonetheless, increasing tobacco taxes remains one of the most underutilized tools in the fight against the tobacco epidemic.
Please stay tuned for the upcoming meeting report, which will be made available on our website as soon as it is published.
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 Pichon-Riviere A, Bardach A, Augustovski F, Alcaraz A, Reynales-Shigematsu LM, Teixeira Pinto M et al. Impacto económico del tabaquismo en los sistemas de salud de América Latina: un estudio en siete países y su extrapolación a nivel regional. Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2016;40(4):213-21.