Governments around the world should increase taxation on cigarettes by 50 percent a year to combat booming lung cancer rates, The Lancet medical journal said on Friday.
An editorial said lung cancer, of which smoking accounts for 90 percent of cases, has become the most common and most deadly cancer and drastic action was needed.
“We urge all governments to commit to annual price increases of 50 percent,” the authoritative journal said, judging it the only way to deal with the “endemic tragedy” which kills 5 million people a year.
While health campaigns have helped curb Smoking levels in Britain and North America, the trend to smoke has grown in developing nations.
“Within 20 years, 75 percent of people dying of cancer will be in the developing world - where ever-expanding markets for eager new smokers ensure that lung cancer climbs up the big-killers lists,” it said.
The Lancet said that if the cause of lung cancer were an infections agent, millions if not billions of dollars would have been poured into an eradication campaign.
A worrying sign has been tobacco manufacturers targeting new markets in Asia to compensate for static or declining sales in the developed world, it said.
The Lancet said the World Bank estimates a price increase of 10 percent would reduce demand for tobacco products by 4 percent in high income countries and 8 percent in low and middle income nations.
“Tobacco manufacturers continue ruthlessly to promote a pastime that will kill 50 percent of those who acquire the habit. The least we should do it match this 50 percent mortality with a 50 percent tax.”
Revision date: July 5, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.