On May 31, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners around the world will celebrate World No Tobacco Day. This year’s theme is to raise taxes on tobacco. According to WHO, research shows that higher taxes are especially effective in reducing tobacco use among lower-income groups and in preventing young people from starting to smoke. Increasing excise taxes on tobacco is considered to be the most cost effective tobacco control measure. The World Health Report 2010 indicated that a 50% increase in tobacco excise taxes would generate a little more than $1.4 billion in additional funds in 22 low-income countries.
We already see the positive impact of high tobacco taxes in the United States. According to an article in the Washington Post, Maryland has one of the highest state-imposed cigarette tax rates in the nation, and not surprisingly, one of the lowest smoking rates. Maryland’s tobacco tax was raised in 1999, 2002, and 2008 to the current rate of $2. Between 1998 and 2010, smoking rates have fallen as a result by 32.1%. On the other hand, Virginia has one of the lowest cigarette tax rates in the nation (30 cents per pack), and its smoking rate is almost 20% higher than Maryland’s. I love my home state of Virginia, but Virginia lawmakers aren’t helping to decrease youth smoking rates by keeping the average price of a pack of cigarettes among the lowest in the nation ($4.60 a pack).
On the other side of the country, Washington State is proposing a $1 increase in their cigarette tax to fund a $1 billion cancer research and prevention fund. This is genius – a triple win for Washington! This tax increase would fund cutting-edge cancer research, boost their economy, and discourage smoking. Virginia should take note. We’ll be watching to see if this initiative campaign makes it to the November ballot and what impact it may have in Washington in the future.
Traveling across the water to Thailand, health advocates there are asking the government to raise their tobacco taxes in lieu of WHO’s World No Tobacco Day. According to Dr. Prakit Wathisathokkit, secretary-general of the Action on Smoking and Health Foundation Thailand, about 60% of Thais who stopped smoking quit because of increased tobacco taxes. The most recent tax increase was implemented in 2012 along with a specific tax based on the quantity or weight of the tobacco (one baht per gram of tobacco). Thailand also has an ad valorem tax rate which is based on a percentage of manufacturer or retail prices which was increased to 87% in 2013. A workshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh was also held by the National Tobacco Control Cell of the Health and Family Welfare Ministry in association with WHO to encourage their government officials to raise tobacco taxes and decrease tobacco use in the country.
The ultimate goal of World No Tobacco Day is to “contribute to protecting present and future generations not only from the health consequences of tobacco, but also from the social, environmental, and economic scourged of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.” We are already seeing health advocates, organizations, and government officials holding these conversations and pushing for these tax increases. Hopefully we begin to see a decrease in tobacco use as well as a decrease in health consequences of tobacco use as a result.
Last week, Jen wrote about resolutions for being a UX Champion. This week, I want to highlight five simple ways that UX research teams can improve the UX testing environment. Improving the testing environment in the following ways will ensure the validity of data and provide participants with a more pleasant experience.