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March 3rd, 2017:

Tax us more, world’s biggest cigarette maker tells Philip Hammond – to persuade smokers to use e-cigarettes

The world’s biggest tobacco company has for the first time asked to be taxed more by Chancellor Philip Hammond – to encourage smokers to switch to healthier alternatives.

Philip Morris, which makes brands such as Marlboro, said it backed an increase in taxes on its cigarettes as part of its bid to move to a “smoke-free future”.

In a Budget submission sent this week to Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, Philip Morris said “we support proportionate tax increases”.

Cancer is caused by burning the tobacco in cigarettes. Currently a packet of 20 Marlboro cigarettes costs £9.60, of which £7.10 is excise duty and VAT.

But a packet of 20 Iqos cigarettes – which heat, rather than burn the tobacco – cost £7 of which £2.94 is from excise duty and VAT. A packet of 20 Nicolite e-cigarettes cost £4.75 of which 79p is VAT.

The four page submission – a copy of which has been seen by the Telegraph – said: “Our priority is clear – to switch, as quickly as possible, hundreds of millions of adult smokers across the world to less harmful alternatives than continued smoking.

“While there is no substitute for quitting, we believe that harm reduction (ie promoting safer alternatives to those who would otherwise still smoke cigarettes) can bring significant public health benefits.”

Harm reduction was “an essential element of public health policy, and fully endorse regulatory and fiscal policies” which encourage consumers to switch from cigarettes.

Peter Nixon, UK managing director of Philip Morris, said: “We want to move towards a smoke-free future and a lot of that is incentivising people to move across from cigarettes to something that is less harmful.”

Mr Hammond is expected to confirm in Wednesday’s Budget that cigarettes will continue to be taxed at inflation plus 2 per cent.

Mr Nixon said he would not (want) taxes to be higher because that would act as an incentive for smokers to switch to illicit cigarettes that are smuggled into the UK.

New tobacco control law passed

The National Legislative Assembly on Friday passed the final reading of the Tobacco Control Bill, which raises the minimum age to legally buy cigarettes from 18 to 20 years and bans the sale of individual cigarettes.

The assembly unanimously endorsed the bill, which amends the Tobacco Control Act, with 202 votes debating it for nearly eight hours on Thursday and Friday.

The bill is aimed at better control of tobacco products and protecting people’s health in line with Thailand’s adoption of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The convention emphasises the protection of public health, especially the young.

The bill provides for a national committee on tobacco control. The public health minister will chair the panel, which will propose measures to control tobacco products, protect non-smokers’ health and rehabilitate smokers’ health.

The new law prohibits the sale or provision of tobacco products to people aged under 20, instead of under 18 as previously. Violators are liable to a prison term of up to three months and/or a fine of up to 30,000 baht.

It bans the production and sales-oriented importation of packs containing fewer than 20 cigarettes. Violators can be fined up to 300,000 baht.

In addition, the law prohibits the sale of individual cigarettes instead of packs of 20. The penalty is a fine up to 40,000 baht.

The NLA’s scrutiny committee deleted a clause in the bill that banned smokers from being appointed an expert member of the national tobacco control committee, to avoid discrimination.

Dr Jate Sirataranont, NLA member and head of the scrutiny committee, said the new law is expected to reduce the number of new smokers by an estimated 200,000 a year.

The new restrictions become effective once published in the Royal Gazette.