MAR 25, 2022 10:30 AM PDT

Tobacco Tax Reduces Neonatal and Infant Mortality

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Raising taxes on tobacco products has been linked to a decrease in neonatal and infant mortality, according to data from 159 countries. The corresponding research was published in PLOS Global Public Health.

While previous studies have explored the link between cigarette taxes and infant mortality, their findings are limited as they were predominantly conducted in high income countries. As such, in the present study, the researchers set out to analyze the effects of cigarette taxation across countries with different income levels. 

To do so, they examined data on neonatal and infant mortality from 159 countries spanning from 2008 to 2018, as well as rates of tobacco taxation, gross domestic product (GDP), health expenditure per capita, education, and access to clean water.

They found that the neonatal mortality rate was 14.4 per 1000 live births, and the infant mortality rate was 24.9 per 1000 live births. Rates of neonatal and infant mortality were significantly higher in Low to Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), with 19 neonatal and 33 infant deaths per 1000 births, compared to 4 neonatal and 6 infant deaths per 1000 in High-Income Countries (HICs).

While the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended a 75% tax on all tobacco products, only 11.2% of LMICs and 42.1% of HICs achieved this recommendation. The average tax on cigarettes relative to retail price was 49.1% across the countries studied. 

Delving further into the data, the researchers noted that a 10% increase in cigarette tax was linked to a 2.6% decrease in neonatal mortality and a 1.9% decrease in infant mortality. The researchers believe that their findings indicate an estimated 231,220 infant deaths and 181,970 neonatal deaths could have been prevented in 2018 had countries implemented a 75% tax on cigarettes.

Overall, the researchers say that their data indicates implementing 75% or higher levels of taxation in LMICs should be prioritized to reduce global neonatal and infant mortality rates, as these countries have the lowest rates of tax on tobacco products and the highest potential for infant death.

The researchers noted some limitations to their study. It was not possible to control for all possible confounding factors, and taxation data was available only for the most popular cigarette brands in each country.

"Future research should further investigate the differences between countries in improving child survival by raising taxes, since this link depends on a complex range of market forces, including the influence of the tobacco industry," they wrote in the study. 

 

Sources: ScienceDaily, PLOS Global Public Health

About the Author
University College London
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
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