WHO recommends tobacco tax hike

30 May 2014 08:00 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Today is World No Tobacco Day
Statement issued by the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre

This year, World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) is celebrated under the theme “Raise Taxes of Tobacco.
Lower Death and Disease”. WNTD is observed on May 31 to highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and the need for strengthening effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.
The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 6 million people each year, of which more than 600,000 are non-smokers dying due to second-hand smoking. Approximately 65 people die per day in Sri Lanka. The economic costs of tobacco use are equally devastating. In addition to the high public health costs of treating tobacco-related diseases, tobacco users are also less productive due to increased sickness, and those who die prematurely deprive their families of much-needed income.




Due to these reasons tobacco control policies, treaties and evidence based methodologies are developed globally.
Among these demand reduction approaches, raising taxes on tobacco is the most effective policy to reduce tobacco use and save lives. Raising taxes costs 20 times less to obtain the same health benefit than other measures. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends increases in taxes that increase prices above inflation and tax should represent at least 75% of the retail price of the most popular brand of cigarettes. This is now in place in 26 of the 53 countries in the WHO European region like Italy, France, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
WHO global estimates show that if taxes were increased by 50% per pack, governments would earn an extra 101 billion US dollars in revenue – funds that could go towards combating cancers,  cardiovascular diseases and other non-communicable diseases. If all countries increased the amount of excise they charge on cigarette packs by 50%: there would be 49 million fewer smokers and at least 11 million smoking-attributable deaths would be averted.
Price is a key factor in reducing consumption and averting deaths. The John Player Gold Leaf cigarette, which has the largest market share (over 83%) is currently priced at Rs.28. A study conducted by Verité Research, reveals that if the prices had been adjusted since 2000 maintain the same level of affordability (as they had been from 1980 to 2000), i.e. in keeping with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, the current price would be Rs. 47.




"WHO recommends increases in taxes that increase prices above inflation and the tax should represent at least 75% of the retail price of the most popular brand of cigarettes. This is now in place in 26 of the 53 countries in the WHO European region like Italy, France, Spain, Turkey and the UK"




Considering the local taxation context, it can be observed that there is no consistency of tax rates between the various lengths of cigarettes and the total tax share on retail price has been less than the recommended minimum of 75%. The loss due to the combined effect of under-pricing and under taxation is estimated to exceed 20 billion in 2013 (twice as much as what was spent on Samurdhi benefits).
 Today Sri Lanka is in a very critical moment given tobacco control because of the ruthless and unethical
behaviour of multinational tobacco industry. In Sri Lanka the tobacco industry is a monopoly of
Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC) which is owned by of British American Tobacco (BAT) through owning more than 92% of shares. The ruthlessness of this killer company is endless. While killing  65 Sri Lankans each day and making children fatherless, this company organised a get-together for families (including children) who are engaged in the cigarette industry. This is a violation of the NATA
Act No. 27 of 2006 as any promotional activity of tobacco cannot be carried out especially for children. It was shameful to see the Chairperson of the killer tobacco company opening a Vesak ceremony which was to commemorate the most important Buddhist event.




 Out of all the interferences to public health the double standards in following pictorial health warning regulations tops. BAT attempts to undermine the implementation of pictorial health warnings in Sri Lanka by bringing up ineffectual excuses where as they have to abide by policies in countries like Australia, Mauritius and Uruguay. They have compromised the brand name and logos completely in Australia which has imposed plain packaging and in countries like Uruguay they have limited the brand details into 20%.Tobacco Company repeatedly questioning the Court decisions and ignoring the unanimous decision of the Parliament to implement pictorial warnings covering
80% of cigarette packaging implies this ruthless company’s respect for the sovereignty of Sri Lanka.
Therefore as Sri Lankans we need to question ourselves whether we need to facilitate a multinational of this sort, whether we need to have loose taxation policies on them, whether we can to let them blemish the future of our children and youth.




However as a country, we can still be proud and happy due to many reasons when combatting the killer tobacco. Firstly we have a President whose propaganda is “Mathata Thitha” and a Health Minister who is determined to take all the tobacco controlling measures to ensure a secured future for youth. The NATA Act although there are few loose ends, provides a framework and policy background for tobacco control. There are a few towns which do not sell cigarettes and some of the trade associations decided to stop the sale of cigarettes in the near future. The CTC reports show that sales have decreased by 14% from first quarter of 2012 to 2013.
The contribution for tobacco control of professions from many fields, celebrities, policy makers, policy implementers, academics, and general public including youth and even smokers, is at an extraordinary level. Especially media play an important role in raising awareness among all the Sri
Lankans.




As responsible policy makers, policy implementers, media, professionals and academics and most importantly as responsible Sri Lankans, we can do following the in our own capacities to create a safe haven for our children and youth:
Developing and implementing a rational transparent pricing and taxation policy on tobacco
 Exposing the interferences of tobacco industry in undermining public health policy formulations and implementations.  
Supporting the implementation of pictorial health warnings covering 80% of principal surface area of cigarette packaging to ensure the rights of our Sri Lankan children to enjoy the same benefits as children in developed countries.

  Comments - 1

  • Cobra Sunday, 01 June 2014 01:58 PM

    And who stands to lose???


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