Thais undermine own tax hike

The state monopoly that controls Thailand’s tobacco industry has effectively undermined a recent tax rise on cigarettes by immediately launching a new low-price brand.

Associated Press quoted Daonoi Suttiniphapunt, director of Thailand Tobacco Monopoly, as saying the new brand, which will be slightly smaller in diameter than standard brands, would cost about 40 baht (USD1.12) per pack when launched on April 1. Other brands now range from about 48 to 130 baht per pack following a rise in tax of 5-10 baht per pack (of 20).

“We are concerned that smokers will choose other alternatives that will severely harm their bodies, such as low-quality hand-rolling tobacco,” she was quoted as saying. “They don’t use good quality material, they use no filters and there is a lot more residue. … They might put filters in, but in the process … there is usually more residue such as tar and nicotine than in legal cigarettes.”

Tax remains low on hand-rolling tobacco while native roll-your-own is not taxed at all; Thailand’s packed brands are relatively cheap though: the price of the most sold brand in Thailand is less than one-third of the price in Malaysia (source: Oxford Economics, Asia-14 Illicit Tobacco Indicator, p 128ff). As a result, Thailand’s problem with illicit tobacco is tiny compared to its southern neighbour.

Enabling consumers to continue smoking on the cheap despite tax rises may be good for the consumer in the short term, but Thailand remains opposed to efficient means of harm reduction such as e-cigarettes, which are completely banned – although openly on sale in the capital Bangkok. Lack of law enforcement also extends to easy availability of cigarettes to young people – some as young as five years old.

factasia deplores all youth use of products containing nicotine, but calls on governments to regulate in favour of full availability to adults of less harmful alternatives to smoking, especially e-cigarettes, which have been show to be “at least 95 percent safer than smoking.”

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