Tobacco Tax: The most effective least-used tool in public health

Higher taxes on tobacco have proven to be the most effective measure for both encouraging smokers to quit and preventing others from taking up smoking — especially young people. After South Africa increased tobacco tax rates fell by 255 percent in real terms between 1991 and 2001, total cigarette consumption fell by 34 percent, while per-capita consumption fell by more than 40 percent.

Considering the benefits, one would imagine that most countries would now be taking hold of the opportunities offered by tobacco taxes — to reduce disease and premature death on the one hand, while simultaneously increasing funding for health care on the other.