Can fiscal policies reduce noncommunicable diseases?

Governments increasingly turn to fiscal policies to address risk factors – tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diet – associated with noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Specifically, these policies focus on raising taxes on tobacco and alcohol to reduce consumption, and introducing food taxes and subsidies to promote a healthy diet.

One of the goals of the Action Plan for Implementation of the European Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases 2012–2016 is to “to use fiscal policies and marketing controls to full effect to influence demand for tobacco, alcohol and foods high in saturated fats, trans fats, salt and sugar”.

WHO/Europe has put together a package of supporting documents on fiscal policies, and advised decision-makers in health policy, most recently at an international training seminar in Lithuania on 24–26 September 2012.