Honiara – A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that most countries are not using one of the cheapest and most effective measures to reduce death and suffering from tobacco – taxation of tobacco products.
“Tobacco taxation is critical to reduce the use of tobacco in Solomon Islands,” says WHO Officer-in-charge Dr. Audrey Aumua.
“Higher taxes make tobacco less affordable, helping tobacco users quit and keeping non-users – especially young people and women- from ever starting.”
Solomon Islands has a high rate of smoking, particularly among young people. Evidence shows that 40% of Solomon Islands adults currently smoke, and almost one if four youths aged between 13 and 15 smoke.
The WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2015: Raising Taxes on Tobacco is the fifth global report on the tobacco epidemic, produced by WHO with support from the World Bank and Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Raising tobacco taxes costs little to implement and leads to health, social and economic benefits. The burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including heart disease, strokes, cancers and lung disease, will reduce and the health of Solomon Islanders will improve.
There will be less need for expensive care from tobacco-related illness. Raising taxes can also help Solomon Islands generate additional revenue to fund vital health programmes and other essential public services.
Solomon Islands is successfully implementing comprehensive tobacco control initiatives, including the introduction of graphic health warnings on tobacco products in January this year. However, much more must be done to prevent ill health, disability, and death from tobacco use.
The WHO MPOWER package of measures has significantly strengthened tobacco control efforts worldwide. It identifies six key WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control policies to tackle the tobacco epidemic, namely to:
· Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies,
· Protect people from tobacco smoke,
· Offer help to quit tobacco use,
· Warn people about the dangers of tobacco,
· Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship,
· Raise taxes on tobacco.
The latest Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic-2015 provides evidence on the effectiveness of MPOWER. The report shows how strong tobacco control policies can reduce tobacco use and can monitor the progress of reducing the impact of the tobacco epidemic. It also details country efforts to meet tobacco control targets, and identifies what further action they can take.
The tobacco industry argues that tax increases on tobacco products fuels the illicit trade of these items. Accumulated international experience, however, shows this argument is flawed. In high-income countries, where higher taxes have increased tobacco prices, illicit trade still is less common when compared to low-income countries with low tobacco taxes.
WHO remains committed to supporting the global tobacco control measures outlined in this report, particularly those related to the tobacco tax agenda.