Pressure groups want higher tobacco tax

Pressure groups want higher tobacco tax

The National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) has urged finance minister Pravin Gordhan to review tobacco tax rates in South Africa.

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Gordhan announced that cigarette tax would increase by R1,24 per pack.  

The group accused government of sticking to a policy which kept tobacco taxes low in favour of tobacco companies at the detriment of public health and government revenues.

The group said South Africa’€™s tax rates on tobacco were among the lowest in the world. ‘€œSince 1997 government set the cigarette tax rate at 50% of retail price and gradually increased it to 52% in 2002,’€ the NCAS said in a statement.  It has remained at 52% since

According to the NCAS smokers in Ireland would part with R93 for a packet of 20 cigarettes which makes up 79% of the retail price. They said the average tax incidence in the 27 member states of the European Union was 78%.

NCAS spokesperson, Dr Yussuf Saloojee  said the group hoped to meet with the finance minister to alert him and his colleagues of the profits that could be made by government if cigarette tax was increased.

He said more people were also bound to quit smoking if the tax was increased. ‘€œResearch that has been conducted has shown that people are in support of increased tax. Some say they would be more likely to quit smoking if the tax was increased,’€ said Saloojee.

‘€œIncreasing costs will discourage children from starting to smoke. If a cigarette costs 10c a child is at a better position to buy it,’€ he said.

In his speech Gordhan said government was taking a stronger stance on alcohol abuse and would review the current tax benchmarks for alcohol beverages.

Saloojee said the organisation welcomed this suggestion but said they expected the minister to apply the same stance on tobacco.

He commended government for introducing laws that prohibited people from smoking in public places but warned that the laws were not enforced.

According to the World Health Organisation tobacco use killed about 100 million people in the 20th century. If the current trends continue there will be up to one billion tobacco-related deaths in the 21st century.

If left unchecked, tobacco will cause more than eight million deaths by 2030 and 80 percent of these deaths will occur in the developing world.