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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2059

Prevent Sri Lankans From Preventable Death, Tobacco Prices Through Tax Increases - Vandana Shah.

By Manjari Peiris
Colombo, 03 December, (Asiantribune.com):

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) is a Washington, DC-based public health group, working to reduce tobacco use and its deadly consequences in the United States and around the world. Through strategic communications and policy advocacy campaigns, the CTFK promotes the adoption of proven solutions that are most effective at reducing tobacco use and saves the most lives.

Vandana Shah is the Director of South Asia Programs for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

She elaborated her views on Article 6 (tobacco tax) of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) of the WHO, and of Sri Lanka situation, pertaining to tobacco taxation.

FCTC guidelines for Article 6

Increasing tobacco taxes is the single most effective way to reduce tobacco use and save lives. The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control recommends that tobacco taxes should be simple, specific, regularly adjusted to rise along with income growth and apply to all tobacco products to minimize product substitution. The World Bank recommends setting tobacco taxes to between two-thirds to four-fifths of the retail price.

Has Sri Lanka taken sufficient measures to increase tobacco tax according to the GDP and inflation?

In Sri Lanka, large variation exists among tobacco products and how they are taxed. The wide variety allows for greater affordability and helps contribute to high rates of consumption. In 2016, the government took strong steps to reverse this trend specifically for cigarettes, however more must be done. Currently, 46 percent of men and 5 percent of women in Sri Lanka use tobacco (smoking and smokeless tobacco - WHO STEP Report). In terms of current tobacco smoking, it is 29.4% for males).

Tax methodologies to reduce tobacco consumption in a developing country like Sri Lanka?

The most direct and effective method for reducing tobacco consumption is to increase the price of tobacco products through tax increases. Higher tobacco prices encourage cessation among existing tobacco users, prevent initiation among potential users - especially the poor and youth, and reduce the quantity of tobacco consumed among continuing users.

How depending on revenue from tobacco would affect a country's well being, especially people's health and productivity?

Tobacco use costs the world US $1.4 trillion in health care costs and lost productivity. Importantly, tobacco use is increasingly concentrated among the poor and other vulnerable groups, who often lack the health care access and income to treat tobacco related diseases acquired from their tobacco use.

On the contrary, increasing tobacco taxes actually boosts government revenue. Every nation and sub-national entity that has significantly increased its tobacco tax has enjoyed substantial increases in revenue, even while reducing smoking. Governments can and should increase tobacco prices through tax increases to protect their populations from the world's number one leading cause of preventable death.

Statistics related to tobacco tax and consumption in other countries

In SEARO, the Philippines have done an extraordinary job of using tobacco taxes to reduce tobacco use. In 2012, the Philippines increased tobacco taxes with steady increases every year. By 2015, tobacco use had dropped by nearly 20 percent compared to 2009. The Philippines has also mandated cutting-edge graphic warnings on tobacco products featuring real victims of tobacco-related diseases. Government revenue from tobacco taxes more than tripled between 2012 and 2016, from PHP 32.9 billion in 2012 to PHP 104 billion in 2016, even as sales declined.

Brazil also adjusted its tobacco excise system in 2012 to automatically adjust every year above inflation. Between 2006 and 2013, government revenue from tobacco excise taxes increased by 48 percent, even as sales declined.

What the government should do to protect Sri Lankans from the menace of tobacco smoking

"The Sri Lankan government can and should increase tobacco prices through tax increases to protect the people of Sri Lanka from the world’s number one leading cause of preventable death.", said Vandana Shah.

- Asian Tribune –

Vandana Shah - Director of South Asia Programs for  Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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