tobacco firms hit back on proposed 100% tax hike

“These small tax increases, below inflation, actually end up making cigarettes more affordable over time. They are simply not enough to make people think twice about smoking and do not address the high cost burden of tobacco.

“In the latest tax year, SA collected only R12.5bn in tobacco tax, while tobacco harm costs the state more than R42bn in health-care costs and lost productivity as estimated by a 2020 REEP [Research Unit on Economics of Excisable Products] study.

“Tax-paying South Africans are subsidising the cost of tobacco use to the economy. We must redirect this cost to the tobacco industry and smoker,” said Savera Kalideen, executive director of NCAS.

Dr Catherine Egbe, a specialist scientist in the SAMRC’s alcohol, tobacco and other drug research unit, echoed similar sentiments.

“It’s time for SA to step up to our FCTC commitments and truly implement what we signed up for — both in terms of passing the Tobacco Bill and increasing tax. Tobacco tax is part of a broader strategy to reduce tobacco consumption and stop new smokers from starting.

“Evidence from multiple countries shows that lower-income households and adolescents are most sensitive to price increases and do change their smoking behaviour over time. Higher prices can also reduce relapse among those who have quit and reduce consumption among continuing users,” said Egbe.  

The REEP study revealed that nearly 30% of respondents who smoked indicated that they had tried to quit during the lockdown, mainly because of higher prices, while many determined smokers who could get cigarettes continued to pay the soaring prices for illicit cigarettes.  

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