Introduction: As stated in Article 6 of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), increasing tobacco prices through higher taxes is one of the most effective interventions to reduce tobacco use and to encourage smokers to quit. The potential for tax increases on tobacco products in Central America is ample. We aim to synthesize the current tobacco taxes situation and highlight research needs to strengthen taxation.
Background: In May 2012, a workshop was carried out with representatives from each Central American country to analyze the tobacco tax situation in each country and to identify key research gaps with experts in the field.
Discussion: Tobacco taxes in Central America fall far short of the levels recommended by FCTC. Moreover, the legal framework is complex and creates barriers for higher taxes that require further research and political will. Top research priorities are an in-depth analysis of tobacco tax legislation, impact of tax and price policies, analysis of costs associated to health care of tobacco-related diseases and lost productivity, and the feasibility of approaches to increasing tobacco taxes in certain contexts. An additional area of research is the interrelationship between human rights and tobacco control.
Conclusion: Central American countries would benefit from increasing excise taxes on tobacco products. The lack of available data and research to counteract tobacco industry arguments are significant obstacles. Active leadership of civil society in support of the partnership of chronic disease interventions is vital in order to obtain tax increases on tobacco products.