Q: What is Prevent20?
A: The name Prevent20 refers to preventing 20% of all cancer deaths that are related to tobacco use. This campaign is an invitation to join a global effort of cancer organizations to remind our citizens and governments of the importance and cost-effectiveness of higher tobacco taxes for preventing cancer deaths and disease.
Q: Why do we need a campaign on tobacco taxation at this time?
A: WHO member countries have agreed to a target of reducing smoking prevalence by 30% by the year 2025. At the present time, however, the vast majority of countries around the world have not yet raised the tax on tobacco products high enough to meet that target. Concurrently, the tobacco industry works tirelessly to convince governments that raising tobacco taxes is bad for the economy.
Q: Why are cancer organizations specifically targeted to be engaged in this campaign?
A: Cancer organizations have a respected voice and garner much influence in our respective countries and globally. We therefore have a unique role to play as a driving force for influencing public opinion and government action on both cancer and tobacco control.
Q: My organization is already a member of the national tobacco control coalition in my country. Why should we get involved in this separate effort?
A: That’s fantastic – your participation in the national coalition is vitally important! We’d love for you to tell members of your coalition about this global movement of cancer organizations, which is meant to supplement, not supplant, existing national tobacco control efforts.
Q: Remind me again, why are taxes so effective at reducing smoking prevalence?
A: It is widely acknowledged that among all policy options available to government, increasing the tax on cigarettes is the single most cost-effective measure for preventing and reducing smoking. This is because price plays a pivotal role in people’s decisions to smoke –the less affordable cigarettes are, the less they will be consumed. In fact, an overwhelming body of evidence confirms that a 10% increase in cigarette price causes smoking rates to fall between 4% and 8% on average.
Higher prices influence the demand for cigarettes in two ways: by influencing current smokers to quit or smoke less, and by preventing nonsmokers from ever starting.
Q: What does my organization need to do as part of this campaign?
A: To start, all we ask is that you take three simple steps to: 1. Allow us to display your organization’s logo on the Prevent20 website; 2. Identify a point person within your organization; and 3. Fill in a brief survey to give us an idea of what type of support you would like to receive from our coalition.
Q: We don’t have economists on our staff. Will we be able to talk about taxation?
A: You don’t have to be an economist or have an economist on staff to join the movement. In fact, we think it’s important that the general public and government officials hear about this issue from people like us who are not technical experts. In addition, there are several technical experts in the Prevent20 coalition who can help when the need arises.
Q: What about illicit trade? This is the topic that dominates the conversation when we start talking about tobacco taxes in my country.
A: Many governments are swayed by the arguments of the tobacco industry that increasing cigarette taxes will encourage the creation of tobacco black markets that are outside the reach of the tax department. We actually know that much of the research linking illicit tobacco trade with tax increases is backed by the tobacco industry. Growing evidence suggests that these industry-commissioned studies overstate the illicit cigarette trade problem. Our coalition will be developing simple counter-arguments that you can use when discussing this issue.
Q: How do higher tobacco taxes help countries get closer to meeting their smoking prevalence reduction target and SDG commitment to reduce premature mortality from NCDs?
A: The SDGs are the first development goals at the international level that explicitly include a target on NCDs. As a result, countries have committed to reducing premature mortality from NCDs by one-third by 2030. Tobacco use is a key risk factor that greatly contributes to the NCD burden, and countries have also committed to meeting the WHO’s target of reducing smoking prevalence by 30% by 2025.
Q: Do we know by how much tobacco taxes need to be raised to reduce smoking prevalence by 30% by 2025 and get countries closer to meeting the SDG goal on NCDs?
A: Yes! The optimum taxation level will vary from country to country and we can use a number of data points to estimate by how much tobacco taxes should be increased to reduce smoking prevalence by 30% by 2025.