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NGO urges increase in tobacco taxes

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A man smokes a cigarette in the capital earlier this year. Hong Menea

NGO urges increase in tobacco taxes

The NGO Cambodian Movement for Health (CMH) reiterated its call for the government to increase tobacco taxes to encourage people to stop smoking and reduce the number of smoking-related illnesses and deaths during the Covid-19 crisis.

In a press release on May 17, CMH said smokers are more severely affected than non-smokers by Covid-19.

The World Health Organisation has designated "Smoking Cessation" as the theme for World No Tobacco Day 2021.

According to CMH, one of the most effective measures to help people successfully quit smoking is to raise tobacco taxes, because as taxes increase smokers will smoke less or quit smoking completely.

"Less or no smoking will lead to a reduction in the number of deaths, disabilities and illnesses from tobacco use. In addition, the increase in the tobacco tax gives the government additional tax revenue to be used for disease prevention, especially the prevention and treatment of Covid-19,” CMH said.

CMH executive director Mom Kong said some misconceptions suggested that raising the tobacco tax would lead to a loss of tax revenue, affect employment opportunities or the poor.

But many countries including other ASEAN member states, he noted, have already raised tobacco taxes, prompting many people to quit smoking and enabling the government to generate additional revenues. The government can use the proceeds to support a lot of public health initiatives, Kong suggested.

"In Cambodia, a UN case study on investment in tobacco control in 2019 showed that Cambodia will receive an additional $235 million in additional tax revenue over the next five years and $933 million in the next 15 years if the country raises tariffs on tobacco products up to 75 per cent of the retail price of cigarettes,” he said.

Kong said tobacco killed about eight million people worldwide, including around 15,000 Cambodians, every year from cardiovascular and lung diseases, among others. An estimated $1.4 trillion was lost, he noted in the press release.

Ministry of Economy and Finance spokesman Meas Sok Sensan told The Post on May 16 that the ministry had discussed the issue several times with relevant institutions. But he said the decision to raise the tax was based on a more detailed study, as the government has already thoroughly studied the taxation of tobacco products.

"We have met many times to do a comprehensive assessment, because each tax policy has its pros and cons. This is just a matter for the government to weigh in on raising taxes," he said.

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