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World No Tobacco Day 2014: Raise taxes on tobacco

Since 1994, the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) has been supporting the science and research community. To celebrate the society’s 20th anniversary and to help mark the World Health Organization’s World No Tobacco Day on 31 May 2014, we invite you to read a free collection of articles published in the society’s journal, Nicotine & Tobacco Research (N&TR), covering both top scholarship and the growth of the society. Dissemination of the science published by N&TR has long been a priority. The need for a renewed focus on the global dissemination of best practices and science as described in each of the papers from the 20th anniversary collection is as apparent today as it was more than a decade ago.

By Gary E. Swan


According to the WHO’s fact sheet on tobacco, chronic tobacco use caused 100 million deaths in the 20th century. If current trends continue, it may cause one billion deaths in the 21st century. The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly six million people each year, of which more than 600,000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke. More than 80% of these preventable deaths will be among people living in low-and middle-income countries. Unless there is continued and more rapid dissemination of best tobacco control and cessation practices, the epidemic will kill more than eight million people every year by 2030.

In addition to the global dissemination of tobacco control strategies to the large number of smokers who want to quit, there is a need to continue to inform and motivate health care providers to encourage their patients who smoke to quit. For example, a systematic review of studies from the United States using direct observation of physicians during medical encounters found that smoking was discussed infrequently (21% of all encounters), with only 36% of potentially eligible patients having received advice as recommended by the US Preventive Services Task Force on smoking cessation.

quit smoking

Another compelling reason for persistent dissemination of evidence-based findings from the nicotine and tobacco research field is provided by the US Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), a new entity empowered to regulate tobacco products by the 2009 The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. In order to effectively regulate tobacco products, the CTP requires scientific evidence to support claims that new products, such as e-cigarettes, reduce exposure and subsequent harm to the smoking public. Evidence, both supportive and non-supportive, from the scientific community is currently being actively sought by the CTP.

Because of the lethality of chronic consumption of tobacco, effective tobacco control and smoking cessation approaches remain among the most cost effective life-saving medical procedures known to man. Methods such as taxation are highly effective and, for World No Tobacco Day 2014, WHO and partners have issued a call to countries to raise taxes on tobacco. N&TR has published many empirical studies on the effects of taxation on tobacco use.

The interval between the conduct of research and implementation of evidence-based prevention and treatment results remains unacceptably long from many perspectives. Hopefully newer electronic Web-based applications and technologies will facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration. The editors of N&TR believe such applications and technologies will enhance the dissemination of research evidence and, thus, facilitate the translation of scientific evidence for effective programs and services into everyday practice around the world. By so doing, we will be better positioned to reduce the enormous human and economic costs of global tobacco use.

Gary E. Swan, PhD, is the Founding Editor of Nicotine & Tobacco Research, a Past President of SRNT, and a Consulting Professor at Stanford University’s Prevention Research Center.

Nicotine & Tobacco Research is one of the world’s few peer-reviewed journals devoted exclusively to the study of nicotine and tobacco. Its mission is to publish a range of content representing all facets of the evidence-based science of nicotine and tobacco. The journal is published by OUP on behalf of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.

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Image credit: Anti smoking image. © ansar80 via iStockphoto.

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