24 Jun 2013
Getting there: A step-by-step guide to asking for a tax or price target
2. Consider a public communications strategy
Early on, you will need to consider what media coverage, if any, will help you achieve a tax target in your country.
What you ultimately want is for your government to:
- Make a good decision in committing to a tax target or policy that is good for public health; and
- Get public support for the commitment as a ‘good news’ story.
While you certainly want wide media coverage of a commitment to a good target (see Step 9: Congratulate the government when you win), you may NOT want media attention on your initial efforts to ask for targets, for a number of reasons.
First, as we saw in the previous section, discussions about tax targets can get quite technical. The media will quite likely neither understand nor report accurately any of the technical aspects.
Second, the tobacco industry reads the newspapers too — the more they know what you’re proposing, the more effective they are likely to be at lobbying against it.
Third, and possibly most important, you want your government to ‘own’ the tax policy target it commits to, rather than look as though it was talked into it by NGOs.
Circumstances can vary, of course, but it is usually effective to focus public attention on the basic issues of tobacco taxation:
- The problem — e.g. increasing youth prevalence or consumption, cigarette prices lower than in all neighbouring countries, inflation and economic growth making cigarettes ever more affordable.
- The solution — e.g. the incredible cost-effectiveness of tobacco taxation, and how increased tobacco taxes in your country would reduce tobacco use.
Develop relationships with individual journalists and refer them to relevant international examples, such as the ones highlighted in this toolkit. You should also be ready to refer them to spokespeople from these countries.