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November 9th, 2012:

WHO urges tax hike on tobacco

Updated: 2012-11-09 08:02

By Shan Juan and Wang Qingyun (China Daily)

China’s tobacco tax rate is still among the world’s lowest, and the government should increase it to help curb a smoking epidemic that afflicts more than 300 million people on the mainland, according to the World Health Organization.

About half of Chinese smokers spend 5 yuan (80 US cents) or less on a pack of 20 cigarettes, which is “much, much lower than the average cost in developed countries,” said Angela Pratt, technical officer of the Tobacco Free Initiative in the WHO office in China.

Pratt made her remarks at a media briefing to prepare for Friday’s launch of the Chinese-language translation of the WHO Technical Manual on Tobacco Tax Administration.

According to the manual, which was first published in 2010, total taxes on cigarettes account for about 50 percent of the average retail price for cigarettes at the global level, with the average price of a packet being $2.53. The lower-middle-income countries have both lower tobacco prices and lower rates of tobacco taxation.

The excise tax rate in China is 36 percent or 56 percent for cigarettes with different factory prices, official statistics show.

“Designing tobacco taxes that deliver on the objectives of reducing smoking rates and increasing revenue to governments, there is a bunch of technical work that goes into that. This document has been designed to assist policymakers in government to do that,” Pratt said. “Our intention in translating the document is to make the information accessible to officials and others in China.”

Pratt said China is considered to be a middle-income country, but the price of its tobacco products fits more into the lower-middle-income group.

Also, data from the WHO show that the average annual per capita income required to buy 100 packets of the cheapest cigarettes in China has dropped from 14 percent in 2000 to 3 percent in 2010.

“As China’s economy has been growing rapidly over the past two decades, the price of cigarettes has not grown at a commensurate rate, which means cigarettes, already cheap, have become more affordable over time,” she said.

Helen Yu, public information officer of WHO China, agreed, saying the manual recommendations are based on the best practices around the globe.

WHO has recommended that at least 70 percent of the retail price of cigarettes come from excise taxes to effectively reduce tobacco consumption, yet it says the excise tax accounts for only about 25 percent in tobacco’s retail price in China.

Liang Ji, associate professor of the Research Institute for Fiscal Science under the Ministry of Finance, said there is plenty of room for further tax hikes.

In 2009, Chinese authorities hiked tobacco taxes by at least 6 percent, mostly on relatively expensive brands.

“But that didn’t affect cigarette retail prices, particularly the low-end brands, as tobacco companies chose to absorb the tax increase to maintain consumers,” she said.

To address that, Liang suggested the taxation authority keep raising the tax to squeeze the profit margins of tobacco producers as much as possible until they increase retail prices.

China set up a State monopoly of the tobacco industry in the early 1980s, and it now produces more than 2.3 trillion cigarettes each year, accounting for 40 percent of the world’s total, official statistics showed.

During the past 10 years, the industry has contributed 7 to 10 percent of the total annual central government revenues, official statistics showed.

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LETTER: Industry is complicit

Opinion & AnalysisLetters

LETTER: Industry is complicit

by , November 09 2012, 06:55 | 0 Comment(s)



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Illegal cigarettes costing billions in lost taxes

THE tobacco industry organising a conference against tobacco smuggling is akin to Al Capone sponsoring an anti-bootlegging symposium (Customs lets loose copper-sniffing dogs to fight smuggling, November 6).

The industry is part of the problem and not part of the solution. Multinational cigarette company executives have been found guilty of complicity in cigarette smuggling and tax evasion on a huge scale by the courts in Canada, Hong Kong and South Africa.

With perverse timing, the industry conference precedes a World Health Organisation meeting in Korea next week that is likely to adopt a treaty against the illicit trade in tobacco.

The draft treaty provides for international co-operation between parties against smuggling and a clampdown on the illegal activities of the manufacturers.

It proposes securing the supply chain by introducing a global tracking and tracing system, and requires manufacturers to be licensed and to exercise due diligence. So the solution is not to ask the fox to guard the hen house but to defang the fox.

Dr Yussuf Saloojee

National Council Against Smoking

Uncle Sam to Start Tracking Tobacco Use in Movies Aimed at Kids

The action follows a study showing on-screen smoking rose in 2011.

By Shari Roan

November 9, 2012


Uncle Sam to Start Tracking Tobacco Use in Movies Aimed at Kids

Protestors demonstrate against movies that promote smoking to kids worldwide outside the office of the Motion Picture Association of America February 22, 2005, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Federal health authorities said Friday they will begin monitoring how well movie studios are doing to reduce depictions of smoking and other tobacco use in youth-rated movies.

Authorities at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office on Smoking and Health said that voluntary efforts by movie studios to reduce tobacco use in youth-rated movies have been unimpressive. Data on tobacco use in movies will be added to regular CDC reports to the public on smoking prevalence among youth and adults, total and per-capita cigarette consumption, and progress on tobacco control policies.

“We all have a responsibility to prevent youth from becoming tobacco users, and the movie industry has a responsibility to protect our youth from exposure to tobacco use and other pro-tobacco imagery in movies that are produced and rated as appropriate for children and adolescents,” said the lead author of the paper, Dr. Tim McAfee. “Eliminating tobacco imagery in movies is an important step that should be easy to take.”

MORE: PG-13 Movies May Start Teens Smoking

Understanding what motivates kids to smoke is a high priority of public-health experts. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 3,800 kids a day smoke their first cigarette. And, while smoking rates have fallen over the past 40 years, rates in both adults and youths have held steady in more recent years.

Previous research shows that kids who see smoking on television and in the movies are more likely to take it up. But depictions of smoking continue to turn up in youth-rated movies. Last year, the number of on-screen smoking scenes increased, according to a study published in the October issue of the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

The data, from Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down!, a project of Breathe California-Emigrant Trails, is based on tobacco incidents in top-grossing movies each year rated G, PG and PG-13. The study looked at 134 movies that were among the 10 top-grossing, youth-rated movies last year for at least one week.

The study found the number of tobacco incidents rose three percent (1,881 incidents) in 2011 compared to 2010 despite the fact that there were five fewer movies in the 2011 sample. The number of tobacco incidents per movie rose seven percent over 2010—13.1 incidents per movie in 2010 and 14 last year. The biggest increase in smoking depictions occurred in G and PG movies.

MORE: Smoking Rates Around the World Are Astronomical

And, while kids aren’t supposed to see R-rated movies, smoking incidents in those films rose seven percent in 2011, said the author of the study, Dr. Stanton A. Glantz, a professor of medicine for the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco. Glantz has been studying smoking in the movies for many years.

“There are going to be hundreds or thousands of kids who will take up smoking due to this backsliding,” Glantz told TakePart. “There is a dose response here, too—the more kids see, the more likely they will smoke.”

In a report released earlier this year, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin identified smoking in movies and tobacco-company advertising as the primary forces that cause kids to take up smoking.

“The evidence is sufficient to conclude that there is a causal relationship between depictions of smoking in the movies and the initiation of smoking among young people,” the Surgeon General’s report noted. Images of smoking in the movies, “are powerful because they can make smoking seem like a normal, acceptable, or even attractive activity. Young people may also look up to movie stars, both on and off screen, and may want to imitate behaviors they see.”

MORE: Teen Smoking an ‘Epidemic,’ Surgeon General Says

Previous studies have also shown that depictions of smoking in the movies are more likely to influence low-risk kids to smoke. “The kids whose parents don’t smoke or kids who do well in school,” Glantz says.

The increase in on-screen smoking is further disappointing because top officials for three studios—Comcast (Universal), Disney and Time Warner—had previously committed to reductions in smoking in their movies, Glantz says. Smoking in youth-rated movies declined from 2005 to 2010.

Among these companies with stated policies discouraging smoking in movies, the percentage of movies that were tobacco-free declined by 17 percent from 2010 to 2011.

“A few studios had taken the lead in reducing the amount of smoking in their films,” Glantz says. “They accomplished it and showed it could be done. But now there is this serious back-sliding. I don’t know what accounts for that. These three studios are now about as bad as the studios that hadn’t made a lot of progress. I don’t know what happened.”

The Walt Disney Company “actively seeks to limit the depiction of smoking in movies marketed to youth,” according to a statement released by the company to TakePart.

MORE: U.S. Appeals Court Strikes Down Graphic Cigarette Warning Labels

“Disney discourages depictions of cigarette smoking in movies produced in the United States for which a Disney entity is the sole or lead producer and which are released either as a Touchstone movie or Marvel movie, and seeks to limit cigarette smoking in those movies that are not rated “R” to: scenes in which smoking is part of the historical, biographical or cultural context of the scene or is important to the character or scene from a factual or creative standpoint, or to scenes in which cigarette smoking is portrayed in an unfavorable light or the negative consequences of smoking are emphasized,” according to the statement.

The company also said it prohibits tobacco product placement and promotions and will place anti-smoking public service announcements on DVDs of new and newlyremastered titles, not rated “R,” that depict cigarette smoking and will work with theater owners to encourage the exhibition of an anti-smoking public service announcement before the theatrical exhibition of any such movie.

But the World Health Organization and other public health groups have recommended formal policies aimed at eliminating smoking in the movies, McAfee noted.

MORE: Teens: Smoking Less, Calling It ‘Scummy’ More

The Glantz study raises “serious concerns about this individual company approach,” he wrote. “This difference suggests that individual company policies may not be sufficient to sustain a reduction in youth exposure to tobacco-use and other pro-tobacco imagery in movies and that more formal, industry-wide policies are needed.”

Glantz has long argued for a modernized rating system to give movies with any tobacco use an R rating, unless the presentation of tobacco “clearly and unambiguously reflects the dangers and consequences of tobacco use,” he says. Other options to discourage smoking are to run anti-smoking messages prior to the movie and persuading movie studies to adopt policies to certify they receive no payments for depicting particular tobacco brands in their movies.

“The MPAA has refused to address this issue in a meaningful way by giving movies with smoking an R rating,” Glantz says. “They have never rated a single movie R for smoking. The goal here is to get smoking out of the movies being shown to kids.”

Question: Should movies that depict smoking receive an R rating? Tell us what you think in the comments.