June 2, 2014
Guest blogpost by Catherine Castledine of Cancer Research UK.
Like any milestone, World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) presents a chance to both take stock and look to the future. Where next for tobacco control? What are the challenges we face? How can we do more to prevent tobacco harm? As WNTD draws to a close for another year, Europe’s public health community renews its resolve.
The timing of this year’s WNTD couldn’t have been better. With a new European Parliament and – soon – a new batch of European Commissioners, the time is ripe to highlight the role of EU policy makers in protecting health by getting tougher on tobacco.
A new high for tobacco control in Europe
Of course, this Parliament has a tough act to follow. The revision of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), ably driven through by Linda McAvan as rapporteur during the 2009-14 mandate, sets a high benchmark for tobacco control in Europe and a shining example for member countries. It’s great to know she’ll be back for another term in the European Parliament, fighting on the side of public health. Still on the TPD, EU health commissioner Tonio Borg, Irish Health Minister James Reilly and Lithuanian Health Minister Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis all picked up a WNTD award for their efforts on this challenging file.
Tobacco taxes up, death and disease down
Although the TPD has been crucial, tobacco control measures shouldn’t end there. The theme of this year’s WNTD, raising taxes on tobacco, is crucial. We know that higher taxes mean lower consumption – and that lower consumption means fewer deaths. It’s a simple equation, and one that informs our call on EU governments and the EU institutions to ensure taxation on all tobacco products is raised to a level that cuts consumption, stems take-up and helps people quit. Our call is supported by conclusive evidence by the World Bank, and the World Health Organisation.
The man on the street agrees with us. A Cancer Research UK survey has shown that over 70% of people, including nearly half of all smokers, would support a tobacco tax rise.
To help public health advocates unpick the complexities of tobacco tax rules and develop the expertise and skills to confidently support various on-going policy initiatives on taxation and smuggling at national, European and international level, the Smoke Free Partnership has developed the TobTaxy tool kit. You can read more here.
If Europe’s refreshed Parliament and Commission are serious about leaving a tangible health legacy in five years’ time, they should take tobacco taxation seriously, in particular as they look to revise the EU Tobacco Tax Directive. With some 700 000 people in Europe dying from illnesses linked to tobacco each year, let’s hope they’re ready to commit.
If you would like to know more about cancer incidence and mortality in Europe and beyond, check out Cancer Research UK’s interactive cancer maps here.
Cancer Research UK is a member of both the Smoke Free Partnership (SFP), a strategic, independent and flexible partnership between Cancer Research UK, the European Heart Network and Action on Smoking and Health, and the European Public Health Alliance, EPHA.Blogactiv Team