December 18, 2013



Tobacco use is the leading underlying cause of preventable death, and is estimated to kill more than five million people each year across the globe. If current trends persist, tobacco will kill more than eight million people worldwide each year by 2030, with 80% of these premature deaths taking place in the developing world. As tobacco use in the developed world remains stable or rises, low- and middle-income countries will continue to bear an increasing share of tobacco-related mortality, and are in dire need of taking appropriate policy measures to influence smoking behavior and reduce tobacco consumption.

In 1991 the World Bank adopted a policy not to lend, invest in, or guarantee investments or loans for tobacco production, processing, or marketing. The Bank’s activities in the health sector discourage the use of tobacco products. Since the late 1990’s, the World Bank has carried out a substantial amount of work to increase knowledge on tobacco economics and on taxes in particular.

Since early 2012, the Bank team working on tobacco taxes has provided technical assistance to design and implement reforms in taxation of tobacco products, to reduce use of these products across countries, and to do so in a way that creates capacity in countries to monitor the industry. These efforts have been carried out in collaboration with Bloomberg Initiative partners, including World Health Organization (WHO), the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Secretariat and others.

In 2012 and 2013, our work has included:

  • Providing technical assistance to the Gambia, Philippines, and Botswana resulting in tax increases and/or rationalization.
  • Co-financing with WHO a study on the impact of tobacco taxes and prices in Russia and Central Asia, to be published early in 2014.
  • Organizing regional workshops on taxes and illicit trade in South Africa and other southern African countries, and together with the Pan-American Health Organization, in Latin America.
  • Participating in FCTC Secretariat country assessment missions in Kyrgyzstan, Colombia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Georgia, Burundi and Burkina Faso. We focus on Article 6 (taxes), and Article 15 (illicit trade) implementation

In addition, Bank publications, such as Connecting Sectors and Systems for Health Results (2012), Promoting Healthy Living in Latin America and the Caribbean (2013), and Risking Your Health (2013) prominently highlight the issue of tobacco and tobacco control.

World Bank Group President Jim Kim has highlighted tobacco control as an important issue in recent speeches, and in his comment on The Lancet Commission on Investing in Health.

Advocacy on tobacco control will continue to be a pillar of the Bank’s public health work. As the Bank formulates its new global practice on health, nutrition and population, effective July 2014, we hope to scale up our efforts further, working with partners like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

For more, see World Bank and Tobacco Control: The Facts.