Behind the daily trauma of COVID-19 lies a larger and longer-lasting global health challenge resulting from the consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Using a sample of 25 large advanced and emerging market economies accounting for three-quarters of global GDP, we show that about 60 million productive life years were lost every year in 2000, 2010, and 2019 from death and disability attributable to alcohol, tobacco, and diets high in sugar-sweetened beverages. Using the cost-of-illness framework, the economic value of these lost productive years in 2019 is approximately $2.1 trillion in our country sample (in 2017 purchasing power parity dollars [PPP$]). We show that over a 20-year period, a higher tax effort is associated with larger reductions in economic costs. We also show that total corrective taxes for all the products under investigation fall far short of the indirect costs of consumption in all countries. We conclude that all advanced economies and emerging markets could reap substantial macroeconomic benefits from better health by raising corrective taxes on alcohol and tobacco and by introducing corrective taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.
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