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Tobacco Tax

Jamaica to evaluate WHO’s call for heavy taxation on tobacco industry

Health Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton says he along with stakeholders will be evaluating the call by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for heavy taxation on the tobacco industry.

Addressing the WHO’s Executive Board in Geneva, Switzerland, yesterday Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, said heavy taxation is one way of controlling tobacco use.

According to Tufton, Jamaica, which is a member of the WHO board, shares the concerns about the financial costs to treat tobacco-related illnesses and the associated cost to public health, globally and nationally.

He says any measure to discourage smoking and support public health is worth considering.

In a landmark report on the economics of tobacco and tobacco control, the WHO and the US National Cancer Institute concluded that smoking costs the global economy more than $1 trillion yearly.

The researchers also said smoking will soon kill more than six million people worldwide each year.

They show how tobacco control, through heavy taxation can save lives while generating revenues for health and development.

Hong Kong Department of Health Tobacco Control Zero Efforts

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Global tobacco control

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Tobacco stats for Hong Kong years 2013-2016

Clear the Air herewith provides our readers with Tobacco stats for Hong Kong years 2013-2016


The figures tell us that the Hong Kong Government preventative health measures are blatantly NOT WORKING.

The sales of duty paid cigarettes continue to spiral instead of decreasing.

The Government takes over $6 billion in tobacco excise taxes then throws only crumbs to tobacco control and prevention resources – the $6bn remainder goes to pouring white elephant concrete.

The excise tax is manifestly insufficient for a 1st world country with such a high cost of living. Hong Kong needs to match Australia, New Zealand, UK , Ireland excise tax levels to have a preventative effect.

Hence tobacco remains affordable to youth here whilst Government apathy and lack of political will to act reign supreme. A form of misconduct in public office for their failure of duty of care to the people.

Meanwhile there is no apparent political will to force a legislative change to place the onus on landlords to prevent smoking in their licensed premises (whereas on the Mainland they have such laws).

As long as people can go out and smoke in places of entertainment with negligible chances of being caught, they will continue to do so.

Abysmal state of affairs. The highly paid incumbents would have been fired long ago in a business enterprise.

Smoking Rates May Decline With Higher Tobacco Taxes

If all countries raise excise taxes on tobacco products, smoking rates may decline by up to 9%.

Smoking kills about 6 million people a year, and costs the world more than $1 trillion a year in health care expenses and lost productivity, but billions of dollars and millions of lives could be saved through higher tobacco prices and taxes, according to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US National Cancer Institute.

“The economic impact of tobacco on countries, and the general public, is huge, as this new report shows,” Oleg Chestnov, MD, PhD, the WHO’s assistant director-general for noncommunicable diseases and mental health, said in an agency news release. “The tobacco industry produces and markets products that kill millions of people prematurely, rob households of finances that could have been used for food and education, and impose immense health care costs on families, communities, and countries.”

Annual tax revenues from cigarettes globally could increase by 47%, or $140 billion, if all countries raised excise taxes by about 80 cents per pack, according to the report.

The report authors predicted this would raise cigarette retail prices an average of 42%, leading to a 9% decline in smoking rates and up to 66 million fewer adult smokers.

Poorer countries suffer the greatest burden from tobacco use. There are 1.1 billion smokers aged 15 years or older worldwide, and 8 out of 10 of them are in low- and middle-income countries.

The research summarized in this report “confirms that evidence-based tobacco control interventions make sense from an economic as well as a public health standpoint,” report co-editor Frank Chaloupka, PhD, professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in the news release.

Stubbing out tobacco usage

Myanmar is experiencing tremendous economic growth. With a young, growing population and a liberalised economy, it has been slated as one of 20 “markets of the future” that will offer the most opportunities for consumer goods companies.

Tobacco has been identified as one of Myanmar’s top 20 key industries. Its market size is worth an estimated US$450 million – up there with dairy products and dried processed foods. The compound annual growth rate from 2013-18 for tobacco is 16 percent, overtaking apparel (14pc) and consumer appliances and electronics (15pc).

With market liberalisation, British American Tobacco (BAT) re-entered Myanmar in 2013 a decade after it exited the country. When re-establishing itself in the country, it announced that it will invest $50 million in a tobacco manufacturing factory. BAT already has a significant 22pc market share in the growing cigarette market.

Myanmar currently has over six million smokers. Like other Asian countries, a high percentage – 44pc – of adult men smoke. This number is set to increase given the growing adolescent smoking population.

In 2010 cigarette sales in Myanmar were about 13 billion sticks, but these sales are projected to almost double to 25 billion sticks in 2018. Myanmar’s projection is the highest increase among all ASEAN countries. This is bad news for the public health system given that Myanmar already has more than 70,000 tobacco-related deaths annually. Myanmar also has the lowest Human Development Index among Asian countries with a global ranking of 148 out of 188 and public health expenditure is a low 1.8pc of GDP.

Myanmar is a typical developing country in that the bulk of smokers are from the lower-income category. Cigarettes are also extremely cheap in Myanmar and within easy reach for the poor. The most popular pack of cigarettes costs only $0.57. A survey on smoking indicates that about 40pc of Myanmar’s youths can purchase cigarettes from a store. Even more worrying is that 15pc of non-smoking youths have indicated that they intend to start smoking next year – again the highest percentage in the ASEAN region.

Myanmar has some basic tobacco control measures in place to address the problem. Since ratifying the global tobacco treaty in 2004 – the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) – the country has passed legislation banning all tobacco advertising and making public places smoke-free, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Myanmar needs to further increase taxes on tobacco products and put it out of reach for the poor and youths. While tobacco advertising and promotions are banned, there are loop holes that can be exploited. Myanmar faces sleek marketing tactics from transnational tobacco companies who take advantage of government officials’ inexperience.

For example, in 2016 Myanmar passed legislation requiring a pictorial health warning on tobacco packs. Japan Tobacco International placed an announcement in a newspaper in October on how it will be complying with the Health Ministry’s requirements. The announcement showed photos of all its packs with and without the pictorial health warnings – an outright advertisement for its brands.

Penalties for violations are miniscule for wealthy tobacco companies. Even if authorities act against a company for non-compliance of pictorial health warnings, the fine is a paltry $7.95 for the first offence.

This is where civil society groups come into play, they should play a more prominent role in exposing the unethical and exploitative practices of transnational tobacco companies operating in Myanmar.

It is important for Myanmar to keep abreast of ASEAN countries’ achievements on tobacco control measures. Most countries have already banned advertising at points of sale. Brunei, Thailand and Singapore have banned pack displays at retail outlets.

These are the next steps for tobacco control in Myanmar. But Myanmar lacks the resources needed for enforcement – particularly staff. It is the only country in the ASEAN region that has not committed national funds for tobacco control efforts. Strengthening tobacco control measures and allocating more resources to enforcement will send a strong message to the public and private sector that the government is serious about protecting public health from the ravages of tobacco.

Tobacco tax hike hits smokers hard

Making tobacco products more expensive to buy is a proven way to prod smokers into giving up the habit, Wairarapa list MP Marama Fox says.

The anti-smoking advocate said Quitline, the organisation that helps New Zealanders give up smoking tobacco products, received more calls when prices jumped up.

At the start of the year the cost of cigarettes rose 10 per cent, a move it will make annually until 2020.

It is a part of a bid to help New Zealand reach its 2025 target – to have fewer than 5 per cent of the population smoking.

“The ongoing impact on families with low income is the incentive to quit…” Ms Fox said.

“The cost to our families, through sicknesses and illness, exceeds the cost of cigarettes.

“If we can ensure our whanau have the right incentive and support to quit, then we can save our families the cost of the burden of illness and disease and the loss of our people through death.”

Ms Fox said she wants to see more voluntary smoke free communities in New Zealand.

She credited stores that refused to sell cigarettes as making “a brave move”.

“A number of vendors around the country have chosen not to go there, they see the benefits in the lives of their families, and they don’t want to be providing cigarettes for our whanau.”

Ms Fox believes we are on track to meet the 2025 goal, which she said has already been achieved in certain areas.

“We are already meeting that target in a number of communities, sadly, not Maori communities overall.

“The numbers of Maori smoking are coming down, it is slower than the rest of the population but it is continuing to decrease.”

Ms Fox said vaping and e-cigarettes should be used as reduced harm measures, encouraging people to ditch smoking cigarettes.

“We want to be careful when the introduction of this comes through… not to be enticing young people into something that looks cool,” she said.

Ms Fox said they should be a “cessation product first and foremost”.

Price hike alert: GCC gears up for higher taxes on tobacco, soft drinks, luxury cars

New taxes will be added to the existing ones, which are 100 percent on tobacco and alcohol, and that the total taxation on such products will become 200 per cent. (Pixabay)

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is gearing up to double the taxation on certain items like cigarettes in the coming months.

The GCC will gradually implement a selective tax on 93 commodities starting the second quarter of this year and expand to cover all member countries by the beginning of 2018, said Abdulrahim Al Naqi, secretary-general of the Federation of Chambers of GCC.

According to the Saudi budget document published recently, “the GCC countries have already agreed to implement selective taxes on tobacco, and soft and energy drinks during the current fiscal year 2017″.

Al Naqi revealed that the list of items that will be taxed includes energy drinks, tobacco and luxury cars. He explained that each GCC country will determine the value of its own selective tax.

Khaleej Times has further learned that the tax will be added to the existing tax, which is 100 per cent on tobacco and alcohol, and that the total taxation on such products will become 200 per cent.

Last week, the Saudi Ministry of Finance clarified that the tax will be imposed only after the ratification of the uniform agreement on selective tax and the issuance of the domestic rules of procedure in line with the decisions adopted by the Supreme Council of GCC leaders. The proposed date for its implementation is April 2017, the statement added.

Al Naqi said there is a need to spread awareness among the region’s residents as well as the private sector before the implementation of the decision.

The UAE currently imposes 100 per cent tax on tobacco products. The GCC tax code includes 50 per cent taxes on soft drinks and 100 per cent taxes on power drinks, tobacco and its derivatives.

By Mustafa Al Zarooni

Next chief executive should back annual tobacco tax hike in Hong Kong

Your editorial (“Preventive health care is an investment, not a burden [1]”, January 1) has hit the nail on the head regarding the importance of, and investment in, prevention versus cure in Hong Kong.

We all need the “ambulance and curative services” to rescue us when we are taken ill, but unless the whole of government – particularly the finance, trade and economic branches, as well as the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Ombudsman – grasps the political nettle of issues such as tobacco control, health will never improve, nor will the many thousands of annual deaths from tobacco be reduced.

Indeed, the entire Hong Kong government is under an international obligation to do so, being a party to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

One of the most important platforms of any incoming chief executive is their future preventive health plan for Hong Kong citizens.

Let us call upon each of the potential chief executive candidates to outline their health platforms. We should discard all those who see these platforms in terms of more hospital beds, which will never solve the problem of improving Hong Kong’s health. And the current health paradigm is such that improvements will only come about by addressing the vested interests of big business – the tobacco, alcohol, food, and even salt industry –including their often unrecognised front groups.

With tobacco control, we have known for decades what works, and how very cost-effective these measures are. Yet governments around the world hesitate to act.

Increasing tobacco tax heads the list of the best single measure to reduce smoking. It may be surprising to many that a fiscal measure is more important than health education in schools or banning sales to youth, for example, but it is the single best action governments can take to reduce consumption among the young.

Why can Hong Kong not follow Australia and New Zealand and commit to an annual tobacco tax increase of, say, 10 per cent per annum to the year 2025?

Any chief executive candidate who would endorse this would get my (hypothetical) vote.

It would give us an orderly and planned route to follow, and avoid the incredible waste of time and energy lobbying annually for tobacco tax increases. And it would have a massive effect in saving young and middle-aged lives, and in what is termed “frailty avoidance” in the elderly.

Dr Judith Mackay, Clear Water Bay

Governments To Introduce Super Tax On Tobacco Industry

Cigarettes are the most effective killing machine on the planet. Something radical has to be done to stop 1 in 7 of children becoming smokers.

1 billion people smoke cigarettes which in time will kill half of its users amounting to over 6 million people each year. That’s equivalent to wiping out the population of Britain in a decade.

Meanwhile, the world leading tobacco companies boast an income of $315 billion and the top 6 companies make profits of $44bn.

Tobacco deaths account for 20% of all cancer cases. 14 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year. And before people buy into the highly addictive E- cigarettes as the ‘healthy’ option, according to the World Cancer Report, they contain 3,000 chemicals and 28 carcinogens with similar nasties as cigarettes.

Just as 1,000 leading doctors are calling on Theresa May to create a brave new policy on smoking, a bold clear thinking leader could easily introduce a Super Tax forcing tobacco companies to set aside monies to build and run standalone cancer hospitals exclusively for the use of its loyal customers that they are killing. This would reduce substantial pressure on hospitals and release monies to care for people who do not choose habits that make them ill.

There are enough people sadly affected by illness not of their own making, so let’s eradicate the illnesses that are of our making and penalise the industries that make money out of suffering.

Every problem can be solved if we deal with the cause. It’s all about the cause but who wants to deal with the cause?

Obama just announced a bill to spend $6.3 billion to fight cancer over the next decade. Very admirable.

BUT how stupid are we?

Over 2.5 million of cancer deaths per year are avoidable. Main causes being SMOKING, OVEREATING, ALCOHOL ABUSE.

It’s a sad fact of life that we are safest and cause less harm to ourselves and others when we are asleep!

Just as governments found the banks to be sitting ducks to fine handsomely for their misdemeanours, there is far higher justification to target the tobacco companies to save lives, save tax-payers money, save grief, save pain and save suffering.

Our addictions and bad habits cause the majority of our problems but only when we accept this brutal naked truth do we realise we have the power to change ourselves rather than pollute ourselves. Life is tough enough without making ourselves ill.

Many amazing people help and inspire us to overcome our addictions, yet governments are slow to do what is right to implement radical and aggressive change. It should be mandatory for school children to visit cancer wards from a young age to see the effects of cigarette and alcohol abuse as part of the curriculum as well as drug addiction facilities to witness how drugs can destroy people.

I have recently been staying in Manhattan Beach, a smoke free city in California. Here you can’t smoke outside anywhere. Someone made it happen. Other cities and countries could easily follow.

On Christmas Day, the legendary George Michael passed away. On the same day, a brave friend of mine Murray Goldstein also left us. Murray had an important message for the smokers in the world:

“My father was a heavy smoker all his life. He lived to 90 with the occasional cough. Had I known then that he was the exception to the rule I probably would never have become addicted. But in those days, there was no information available that told you smoking was bad for the health.

I smoked a few packets a day from the age of 16 and had a heart attack in my 30s because of smoking and poor diet. I carried on smoking which ruined my chance of a healthy life.

The last 12 years have been a form of purgatory as I have developed COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – which is irreversible, fighting for every breath. My world has revolved around my illness, affecting my near and dear ones especially my wife who has made a great sacrifice to care for me. During the last few years I have needed 24 hour care and the emergency services have revived me several times.

My advice to present day smokers – GIVE IT UP BEFORE YOU GET ILL – it’s not as hard as you think. Don’t wait until the first heart attack or the news that you have cancer. Please learn from my mistakes. I stopped 8 years ago and have never had any cravings and I was a forty-a-day man for years!”

Congratulations to all smokers who finally kick the habit and take Murray’s advice.

Meanwhile, our leaders would do well to reflect on Gandhi’s wise words:

“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would solve most of the world’s problems.