Higher taxes on tobacco are the most effective way for governments to combat the health and social costs of smoking, experts attending a World Health Organisation (WHO) meeting said.
"Higher taxes on tobacco lead to higher prices for tobacco products, which immediately discourage non-smokers from starting and current smokers from continuing with the habit," said Bungon Ritthiphakdee, director of the Bangkok-based South-East Asia Tobacco Control Alliance.
That conclusion was shared by other experts and government officials attending this week's meeting in Bangkok on WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
The World Bank recommended governments impose taxes above 65 per cent, which is the level, according to studies, at which smoking goes down, but government tax revenues from the tobacco industry continue to go up.
Thailand increases reduces sales of tobacco
Thailand, which boasts some of the most progressive anti-smoking policies in South-East Asia, is a case in point. "Between 1993 and 2007, Thailand increased tobacco taxes eight times, from 55 per cent to 80 per cent," said Dr Paiboon
Wattanasiritham, former chairman of the Thai Health Promotion
Foundation. "The number of packs sold decreased from 2.1 million packs in 1993 to 1.9 million packs in 2007."
"And yet, as cigarette sales tumbled, tax revenue from these sales rose from 15 billion baht (about R3.4 billion) in 1993 to 41 billion baht in 2007," the doctor added. – (Sapa)
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