Kathmandu, July 16
Speakers at an interaction on ‘Tobacco Tax: A Sustainable Source for Health Financing’ organised here today said increased taxation on tobacco products could reduce their consumption.
Stating that Nepal had already made progress in implementing a ban on advertisement, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products, secretary at the Ministry of Health Kiran Regmi said she was committed to lobbying concerned bodies for higher taxes on tobacco products. Nepal is the first country in the South-East Asia Region to impose a dedicated levy on tobacco products as health tax.
“The levy is being used for tobacco control activities and treatment of cancer and other tobacco-related diseases. As much as 75 per cent of the fund is used for treatment of tobacco-related diseases and the remaining amount goes to other diseases,” she informed. Taxation on tobacco is only 33.7 per cent in Nepal against 70 per cent determined by the World Health Organisation. Tara Singh Bam, deputy regional director at The Union, said raising taxes on tobacco products was the most cost-effective measure of tobacco control. “Tax should be increased in such a way that people stay away from using expensive tobacco products. Higher taxes work more effectively to reduce smoking among youths,” he said.
Lawmakers Ramhari Khatiwada and Kripa Ram Rana pledged to raise the issue of tobacco taxation in the Parliament.
Ananda Bahadur Chand, chairperson of Action Nepal, urged the government to strengthen their initiatives against tobacco that is adding to the increasing epidemic of non-communicable diseases such as chronic lung disease, heart ailments and cancer. “Raising taxes on tobacco could be a powerful weapon to reduce its consumption and to deter future smokers in the country,” he said.
Jeffrey Drope, vice president, Economic and Health Policy Research Programme at American Cancer Society said higher taxes on tobacco was the most effective public health intervention. “It promotes public health by reducing tobacco use. Quitting makes ex-smokers healthier and reduces healthcare cost. Increase in tax on tobacco also raises government revenue which can be allocated to fund health goals,” he suggested.
A version of this article appears in print on July 17, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.