Effectiveness of Tax and Price Policies in Tobacco Control

Objective: Over 20 experts on economics, epidemiology, public policy and tobacco control were asked by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to evaluate the strength of the available evidence on the effects of tax and price policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

Methods: Draft papers presenting and assessing the evidence on the following topics were developed by the experts in an 8-month period prior to the meeting: tobacco industry pricing strategies and tax related lobbying; tax, price and aggregate demand for tobacco; tax, price and adult tobacco use, use among young people and use among the poor; tax avoidance and tax evasion; and the economic and health impact of tobacco taxation. Subsequently, papers were peer reviewed, revised and resubmitted for final discussion at a 6-day meeting at IARC in Lyon, France, where a consensus evaluation of 18 concluding statements using the pre-established criteria of the IARC Cancer Prevention Handbooks took place. Studies published (or accepted for publication) in the openly available scientific literature were the main source of evidence for the review and evaluation; other types of publications were included when appropriate.

Results: In support of 12 of the 18 conclusions, the experts agreed that there was sufficient evidence of effectiveness of increased tobacco excise taxes and prices in reducing overall tobacco consumption and prevalence of tobacco use and improvement of public health, including by preventing initiation and uptake among young people, promoting cessation among current users and lowering consumption among those who continue to use. For the remaining six concluding statements the evidence was strong (four statements) or limited (two statements).

Conclusions: The evidence presented and assessed in IARC Handbook volume 14 documents the effectiveness of tax and price policies in the control of tobacco use and improvement of public health.