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April 1st, 2008:

Make Tobacco Firms Pay Up

Updated on Apr 01, 2008 – SCMP

I could not agree more with Martin Brinkley (“Stopping causes of illness better policy than imposing ‘health tax'”, March 28) Tobacco is the only legal consumer product which kills its users and innocent bystanders when used as directed by its makers.

Cigarette smoking is the single most preventable cause of premature death in the world.

A University of Hong Kong study placed a value on the loss of productivity and life in Hong Kong due to smoking at 25 times the revenue received from tobacco taxation. Tobacco tax was last increased in Hong Kong in 1999. The World Health Organisation says increasing excise tax is the most effective method of reducing smoking levels worldwide; a 10 per cent increase in tobacco tax will reduce youth smoking by 7 per cent and overall smoking by approximately 4 per cent. Each year 1,324 people die of passive smoking here. The government has the taxation capability. If we prevent our youth smoking through tax increases there will be no need to treat the lethal devastating effects. In his RTHK interview the financial secretary said that if he increased tobacco tax, smuggling would increase thus casting doubt on the abilities of the Customs and Excise Department to handle this problem. This is a poor excuse for his failure to act. The government has a duty of care to the health of its residents and has yet again missed the opportunity to save lives.

If you relieve the major financial and manpower burden of treating smoking related illnesses, does this not make more sense than taxing non-smokers to pay for this treatment? The government should sue the big tobacco firms to recover the costs of treating smoking illnesses.

James Middleton, Clear the Air

The Best Way To Quit Smoking?

Bangkok – 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 on Tuesday.

“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 Southeast 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 that governments impose taxes above 65 percent, 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, which boasts some of the most progressive anti-smoking policies in Southeast Asia, is a case in point.

“Between 1993 and 2007, Thailand increased tobacco taxes eight times, from 55 percent to 80 percent,” said Dr Paiboon Wattanasiritham, former chairperson 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 ($484-million) in 1993 to 41-billion baht in 2007,” the doctor added. – Sapa-dpa

Published on the Web by IOL on 2008-04-01 09:01:42

The case for the plain packaging of tobacco products



The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) requires nations that have ratified the convention to ban all tobacco advertising and promotion. In the face of these restrictions, tobacco packaging has become the key promotional vehicle for the tobacco industry to interest smokers and potential smokers in tobacco products. This paper reviews available research into the probable impact of mandatory plain packaging and internal tobacco industry statements about the importance of packs as promotional vehicles. It critiques legal objections raised by the industry about plain packaging violating laws and international trade agreements.


Searches for available evidence were conducted within the internal tobacco industry documents through the online document archives; tobacco industry trade publications; research literature through the Medline and Business Source Premier databases; and grey literature including government documents, research reports and non-governmental organization papers via the Google internet search engine.


Plain packaging of all tobacco products would remove a key remaining means for the industry to promote its products to billions of the world’s smokers and future smokers. Governments have required large surface areas of tobacco packs to be used exclusively for health warnings without legal impediment or need to compensate tobacco companies.


Requiring plain packaging is consistent with the intention to ban all tobacco promotions. There is no impediment in the FCTC to interpreting tobacco advertising and promotion to include tobacco packs.