By Ali Jones
Millions of lives could be saved by trebling taxes on tobacco, research from across the world suggests.
Cancer Research UK said the move could prevent 200 million premature deaths worldwide, by the end of this century.
Tax increases affecting all cigarette brands will discourage poorer people from simply switching to cheaper brands, experts believe.
Taxes to discourage smokers
Higher taxation would discourage younger people taking up smoking as well as helping others quit, a systematic review of 63 research studies suggests.
The studies of smoking habits in different countries show that tobacco consumption can be reduced by a fifth if a 50 per cent higher inflation-adjusted price is set for cigarettes.
The taxation approach leads to the greatest reduction in smoking among poor sections of the population as well as the young.
Around 50 to 60 per cent of the price of a packet of cigarettes is taxation in most higher-income countries, whereas in lower-income countries it is only 30 to 40 per cent.
Higher cigarette prices would prevent deaths
Doubling the price of cigarettes across the European Union would prevent 100,000 deaths a year among the under-70s, the researchers concluded.
Cancer Research UK's Professor Sir Richard Peto co-authored the study.
He said the international tobacco industry profits to the tune of £30 billion a year - or £6,000 per death - from people smoking.
"The two certainties in life are death and taxes," said Prof Peto.
"We want higher tobacco taxes and fewer tobacco deaths. It would help children not to start, and it would help many adults to stop while there's still time."
Half of young men become smokers
He added: "Globally, about half of all young men and one in 10 of all young women become smokers, and, particularly in developing countries, relatively few quit.
"If they keep smoking, about half will be killed by it, but if they stop before 40, they'll reduce their risk of dying from tobacco by 90 per cent."
Tripling tobacco taxes would cut consumption by a third, the research suggests, as well as raising global government revenues from tobacco by a third - from £180 billion a year to £240 billion.
Full details of the study can be found in the latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.