Cigarette smoking is one of the major causes of illness and premature death haunting people from all over the world. A greater percentage of smokers in the world population are at a risk of developing clinical conditions namely Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), cancer and cardiovascular diseases, which are directly associated with smoking. Cigarette smoke contains nicotine, chemicals, and carcinogens. Often smoking may contribute to health conditions which may not be fatal but result in persistent unpleasant symptoms over the long term.
The downside of smoking is that it may have an adverse effect on the health of individuals who are passive smokers or exposed to cigarette smoke. To help individuals to quit smoking, specialized health programs have been introduced in clinics by medical professionals to encourage smokers not to lose willpower or determination which is the first step towards quitting. Alternatively, various medicines may be prescribed by doctors, which could enhance the chances of quitting. However, to implement programs necessary to control smoking globally, certain legal obligations need to be monitored to reduce the demand for cigarette smoking.
The World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FTC) is an initiative undertaken by WHO to introduce certain measures through country-level programs to lead the path of an effective tobacco control policy. This initiative is governed by the execution of the drafted MPOWER program as described below:
• Monitor policies governing tobacco prevention and use
• Protection from tobacco smoke
• Offer assistance in quitting smoking
• Warn to create awareness of the dangers of tobacco smoking
• Enforce bans on advertising or marketing tobacco
• Raise taxes on tobacco consumption
The most effective approach towards controlling smoking at the grass root level could be by levying high taxes on the purchase value of tobacco. An increase in the retail price could be a possible first step towards quitting smoking or reducing its consumption. The impact of a rise in the price of tobacco could find more effect in middle and low-income countries relative to the higher income countries. The possible implications of high taxes on a cigarette could be as follows:
• Lesser number of people smoking tobacco
• Reduction in the consumption of tobacco by people who continue to indulge in smoking in spite of the hike
• Quitters are less likely to take up smoking again
• The youth is less likely to start smoking
The effect of high taxes on tobacco has probably the most significant impact on the youth and the poor. This is because poverty stricken individuals encourage them to quit smoking to reallocate resources towards attributes which are of a greater priority in their lives and thereby, reduce the incidence of health complications arising due to cigarette smoking. The youth are also affected as much by the increase in the price of cigarettes as the poor.
According to the taxation policies suggested by WHO, there are essentially two types of taxes which could help check tobacco use. These include Specific Taxes which are levied on a particular predefined quantity of tobacco and Ad Valorem Taxes which encompasses a certain percentage of the wholesale price of tobacco. However, some countries may incorporate a combination of these excise taxes to achieve better results by reducing the financial burden on small business and revenue centralization. The nature of the taxes introduced is influenced, however, largely by the economic structure of a country. For effective control of tobacco use, the overall structure of taxation should be simple and easy to implement in the country.
There are certain strategies and policies in taxation which if undertaken could achieve a higher percentage of the population giving their consent to quit smoking. Some of the following postulates as below could be possible approaches towards monitoring the execution of appropriate taxation policies governed by the financial framework of a country.
• To make tobacco progressively less affordable to smokers by a periodic increase in taxes levied on its sale. This, in turn, would ensure that the real price of tobacco increases faster than inflation or the purchase price of tobacco so that smokers cannot afford tobacco use after a certain period of time.
• Before implementing taxation policies, the opinion of economic experts should be taken to ensure that both the goals of reducing smoking and undertake funding programs so that the economic conditions of the small businesses do not suffer a loss due to the reduction of tobacco consumption.
• Taxes should essentially be levied on the most commonly smoked and low priced cigarettes so that smokers could not use more expensive tobacco as an alternate substitute.
• Measures to raise taxes on tobacco should be such that it does not result in smuggling operations or tax evasion on account of poor governance which could dominate over the positive implications of high tobacco taxes. The possibility of illegitimate trading should be ruled out by banning duty-free import or export of tobacco and imposing equal taxes on manufactured and imported cigarettes. Economic incentives offered for the trading of packaged tobacco should be prevented.
• To ensure greater impact of high tobacco taxes on the health of the general public, a certain percentage of revenue should be devoted towards tobacco control and public health and social programs to create awareness among the public especially, smokers with regards to the hike in tobacco tax.