Five papers published today in The Lancet are providing data indicating that taxes levied on unhealthy products — including soft drinks, alcohol, and tobacco — have the potential to lower rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and result in significant health gains.1-5

“Non-communicable diseases are a major cause and consequence of poverty worldwide,” said Rachel Nugent, PhD, MPhil, vice president of Global Non-communicable Diseases at RTI International in Seattle, Washington, and chair of The Lancet task force on non-communicable diseases and economics, in a press release.6 “Responding to this challenge means big investments to improve health care systems worldwide, but there are immediate and effective tools at our disposal. Taxes on unhealthy products can produce major health gains, and the evidence shows these can be implemented fairly, without disproportionally harming the poorest in society.”

Currently, NCDs — including stroke, heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer — can be linked to 38 million deaths each year. The goal of the Sustainable Development Goal NCD is to reduce deaths resulting from NCDs by one-third by 2030.

The papers will also highlight the relationship between NCDs and poverty. Evidence from over 280 international studies found that low socioeconomic status is “consistently associated with higher rates of non-communicable diseases in low and middle income countries,” according to the press release. Analysis of consumption patterns of unhealthy products provided compressive data to investigators, who hope to help governments understand the “potential impact of taxes, and inform whether their use is justified.”

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“Price policies such as taxes will be a key part of the response to rising rates of non-communicable diseases,” Dr Nugent concluded.

The series and its accompanying appendices will be available to the public on April 4, 2018 at 5 PM EST.


  1. Nugent R, Bertram MY, Jan S, et al. Investing in non-communicable disease prevention and management to advance the Sustainable Development Goals [published online April 4, 2018]. Lancet. doi:10.1016/S0140=-6736(18)30667-6
  2. Niessen LW, Mohan D, Akuoku JK, et al. Tackling socioeconomic inequalities and non-communicable diseases in low-income and middle-income countries under the Sustainable Development agenda [published online April 4, 2018]. Lancet. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(18)30482-3
  3. Jan S, Laba T-L, Essue BM, et al. Action to address the household economic burden of non-communicable diseases [published online April 4, 2018]. Lancet. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(18)30323-4
  4. Sassi F, Belloni A, Mirelman AJ, et al. Equity impacts of price policies to promote health behaviours [published online April 4, 2018]. Lancet. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(18)30531-2
  5. Bertram MY, Sweeny K, Laver JA, et al. Investing in non-communicable diseases: an estimation of the return on investment for prevention and treatment services [published online April 4, 2018]. Lancet. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(18)30665-26.
  6. Taxes on soft drinks, alcohol and tobacco are a powerful response to rising rates of chronic disease [news release]. London, UK: The Lancet. Published April 3, 2018. Accessed April 4, 2018.