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April 11, 2019

A new report shows how taxing unhealthy products saves lives

(New York, USA) — New research estimates that 50 million premature deaths could be averted worldwide in the next 50 years if countries increased excise taxes to deliver a 50 percent increase in the prices of tobacco products, alcohol and sugary beverages.

A new report, “Health Taxes to Save Lives,” concludes that implementing excise taxes on products that harm health is key to reducing the health and economic cost of preventable disease. They will also help governments raise trillions of dollars in additional revenues which could be used to fund domestic priorities, including health and development objectives. The  report was issued by The Task Force on Fiscal Policy for Health, which is co-chaired by WHO Global Ambassador Michael Bloomberg and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers.

Vital Strategies President and CEO, José Luis Castro welcomed the report, with the following statement:

“Too few countries use the deterrent effect of taxation to reduce consumption of unhealthy products unequivocally linked to disease and premature death, and the growing burden of NCDs that falls disproportionately on those living in low and middle income countries.

“The report is a stark reminder of the true cost of government inaction when it comes to raising taxes on tobacco, alcohol and sugary beverage: tens of millions of preventable deaths from such diseases as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes.

“We hope this report emboldens governments to now put the findings of this report into action, stand up to industry interference and put people before profit to implement life-saving taxes on unhealthy products.

“We congratulate The Task Force on Fiscal Policy for Health for the release of “Health Taxes to Save Lives” and thank WHO Global Ambassador Michael Bloomberg for his continued leadership in addressing these serious public health concerns.”

The Task Force comprises global experts in health, finance and development and the report and supporting materials are available on the Task Force website.

It is estimated that 8 million people die every year from tobacco use or exposure; almost 3 million die each year due to alcohol consumption and more than 4.5 million people die each year from being overweight or obese. Consumption of tobacco, alcohol and sugary beverages imposes large health care costs and reduces economic productivity. This report finds the real benefits of tax policies: On average, in low- and middle-income countries, a 10 percent increase in price results in a 5 percent reduction in tobacco consumption, a 6 percent reduction in alcohol consumption and a 12 percent decline in sugary drink consumption.

The Task Force on Fiscal Policy for Health finds that raising tobacco taxes alone could prevent 27 million deaths over 50 years-saving more lives from noncommunicable diseases than any other health policy.

For more information about Vital Strategies’ work on tobacco control and obesity prevention, visit

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible. To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.

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