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Economic impact of tobacco control

The policies and programs that are most successful at curbing tobacco use are cost-effective, help alleviate health disparities, and do not harm the economy. Significant tobacco tax increases are the most cost-effective approach, although few governments invest the revenues generated in tobacco control programs. Adopting smoke-free policies, banning tobacco marketing, and requiring prominent graphic warning labels are other highly cost-effective strategies. Many of these efforts also lead to greater reductions in tobacco use and, as a result, greater health improvements among the poor. Tobacco control efforts lead to no net job losses and are unlikely to affect the current generation of tobacco farmers, even in countries that are dependent on tobacco leaf exports.

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Supply-side issues and interventions

To help reduce tobacco use, many governments have adopted policies that aim to decrease the supply of tobacco leaf and tobacco products.

Some governments are reducing or eliminating tobacco subsidies and instead are using their budgets to help farmers transition to other economically viable crops. Limits on the sale of flavored products, guidelines that reduce the amount of tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide in products, and other efforts to regulate tobacco products also help to decrease demand. Most governments also have policies to reduce young people’s access to tobacco products, such as laws that hold vendors accountable for selling to underage youth and policies that directly target youth who purchase, possess, or use tobacco.

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Tax and price

Taxes that raise the price of tobacco products in the United States and other countries are an effective way to reduce tobacco use and prevent young people from becoming smokers. Tobacco taxes that raise prices by 10% have been shown to reduce overall use among adults by about 4%. That’s because as price increases, many current tobacco users quit and others who don’t quit actually end up consuming less tobacco. It’s estimated that price and tax increases have an even bigger impact on youth and lower-income populations. Not only do higher taxes and prices help reduce tobacco use, they also generate significant new revenues because—despite the drop in use after price and tax increase—the overall demand for tobacco products remains high.

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Tobacco control policies and programs

In addition to taxing and raising the price of tobacco products, other policies and programs have helped reduce tobacco use and protect people from exposure to secondhand smoke. A growing number of U.S. cities, counties, and states now require workplaces and public spaces to be smoke free. There also is a global movement to implement smoke-free policies. More than 20 countries, including Turkey, Uruguay, France, and Thailand have enacted strong smoke-free laws. Providing cessation or “quit” programs and regulating the manufacturing, marketing, and sale of tobacco products by banning deceptive cigarette labels, prohibiting advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, and requiring large, graphic health warning labels also have also proven to be effective.

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Tobacco use

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide. Given current use patterns, it is projected to kill about 1 billion people in the 21st century. Although smoking has declined in many high-income countries, tobacco consumption is rising in many lower income countries. Currently, more than 80% of the world’s smokers live in low- and middle-income countries. Most smokers begin smoking when they are children, and kids are starting to experiment with tobacco at an earlier age. Tobacco companies are heavily marketing a wide range of new products, such as e-cigarettes, snus, lozenges, tablets, pellets, and other dissolvable products.

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