Deyalsingh: Tobacco tax not revenue generating mechanism

Minister of  Health Terrence Deyalsingh. -
Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh. -

GOVERNMENT’S decision to raise tobacco taxes has nothing to do with making money Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said during his contribution to the debate to confirm the Provisional Collection of Taxes Order, 2020 brought by Minister of Finance Imbert in the House of Representatives on Monday.

Though the increase of all Tobacco products took effect from October 20, the motion to confirm the order was passed on Monday evening.

Deyalsingh said it costs the country $500,000 to treat one cancer patient and raising taxes on tobacco by 20 per cent is part of the government’s “holistic non- communicable disease plan.”

“This is not a revenue generation mechanism, it is a mechanism to dampen the cigarette demand…Increasing the taxes should hopefully make it more expensive, more out of reach because the prevalence rates will frighten you,” he said.

According to the ministry’s 2011 data on smoking, 53.5 per cent of males between 15 to 64 smoke in this country. In females, between the same age brackets, 9.4 percent smoke. “But this is what is scary...the average age of initiation in both sexes is 17 years. It means some children below 17 are initiated into smoking.” The average cigarettes smoked per day is 12, Deyalsingh said.

“This is just World Health Organization (WHO) procedure which says if all countries increase the amount on excise they charge on cigarette packs by 50 per cent, it will lead to 49 million fewer smokers and 11 million fewer smoking-related deaths.” He said most lung cancer patients are diagnosed with cancer at stage three and most of them do not live.

MP for Fyzabad Dr Lackram Bodoe, later in the sitting, suggested that taxes collected from tobacco go towards the start of a cardiac catheterisarisation laboratory in San Fernando and installation of a Linear Accelerator — a machine that uses radioactive particles and beams to treat cancer patients.

Bodoe urged Government to aim to achieve the WHO’s goal to reduce the prevalence of smoking down to 50 per cent by 2025 and called on the ministry to review and revamp its Tobacco Control Unit.

He said the government had already taken several holistic, non-tax, approaches to reduce the demand for tobacco. These include no indoor smoking, bans on cigarette advertising and a ban on sponsorship for sporting and cultural events by cigarette companies. As he wound up the debate, Imbert said, “The theme has been to do whatever is necessary to control, reduce and eliminate the use of tobacco and tobacco products.”


"Deyalsingh: Tobacco tax not revenue generating mechanism"

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