People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
Southeast Asian countries are moving at a snail’s pace in implementing effective tobacco tax policies, says the world’s first tobacco tax index, launched by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA).
Despite global recognition that high tobacco taxes can reduce consumption and the tobacco-related disease burden, while also raising government revenues, most countries do not have a long-term tobacco tax policy, concudes the index.
It was launched in regional workshop held in Yangon, Myanmar in September.
Main findings in the report include:
- Cigarettes in ASEAN are generally affordable, even for the poor and the young;
- Only Brunei and Singapore have uniform specific taxes, while the Philippines is expected to implement its policies by 2017;
- Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore are the only ASEAN countries that tax all tobacco products (cigarettes and non-cigarette products) in a comparable manner;
- Most ASEAN countries require fiscal markings, such as tax stamps, but no country uses them in a tracking and tracing system.
The report urges governments to:
- Develop and implement long-term tobacco tax policies that include public health targets;
- Raise taxes high enough on a regular basis to reduce affordability;
- Apply a uniform specific tax system or a mixed system with a minimum specific tax floor;
- License all manufacturers, importers/exporters, distributors, and retailers of tobacco products and manufacturing equipment;
- Establish a tracking and tracing system, including fiscal markings with a unique identifier, to reduce the risk of smuggling and assist in investigations of illicit trade;
- Prohibit tax-free or duty-free tobacco products.