Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2009: questions and answers


Question: How can WHO expect countries to devote scarce resources to tobacco control when budgets are so tight because of the current economic downturn?

Answer: One of the advantages of tobacco control is that it is relatively inexpensive, at least in certain of its key aspects, and the return on investment can be enormous. For example:

  • It costs governments almost nothing to require smoke-free work places, restaurants, bars and other indoor public places and to require picture-based tobacco health warnings on water pipes and packs of cigarettes.
  • Similarly, it costs them very little to enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

The provision of tobacco quit lines, nicotine replacement therapies and other tobacco-abatement services can be expensive, as can be the monitoring of tobacco use so that one has an accurate picture of the epidemic's scope and character.

But those costs can be offset by levying higher taxes on tobacco, which has the further benefit of making tobacco more expensive and discouraging people from smoking. In addition, reducing tobacco consumption actually saves governments money by reducing the number of people with tobacco-related health problems and families missing breadwinners to tobacco-related diseases. Rather than lower their tobacco-control ambitions during the period of austerity, governments should raise them, secure in the knowledge that a respectable and effective programme need not break the budget. Where countries lack resources, capacity and know-how, WHO and its partners stand ready to help.

Question: How reliable is the report?

Answer: Every effort has been made to ensure the validity of the information in the report and to provide comparable data – that is, data that can be compared country by country.

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