Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

Manufacturer information will be stitched in every pack of cigarettes


Gazeta.ru: Tobacco companies state that an option of a sudden tax increase is not for poor countries. Smokers, seeing that cigarette got costly, switch to the cheap illegal products and smuggling flourishes?

Dr Bettcher: No, it is a universal rule. It applies to both developed and emerging markets. Uruguay lowered a consumption by 25 % in 4 years, Turkey is close to the same index. And these countries are not the richest ones.

In the 1980s In South Africa, there was a high rate of excise duty and the level of consumption of tobacco products was low. Then the tax was decreased and the number of smokers increased. In the 90s the exercise again was increased and the number of smokers began to drop again. Tobacco companies understand this perfectly well and therefore trying to diminish the importance of raising excise taxes, to deny the statistics, but examples to the contrary are numerous

Gazeta.ru: But according to the International Centre for Tax and Investment (ITIC) and Oxford Economic, only 1.3% of the world population lives in countries where excise duty is more than 70%?

Dr Bettcher: That's not true. According to WHO, 8.5% of world population live in such countries.

Gazeta.ru: Researchers from these institutions also argue that with a sudden tax increase in Russia, the level of illicit trade in cigarettes will rise to 35%. Now it is about 1%.

Dr Bettcher: I'll tell you about the ITIC and Oxford Economic ... Researchers from these institutions are highly dependent on industrial companies and therefore it is not surprising that all of their research, calculations and estimates are in favor of the tobacco industry. I want to clarify that 70% of retail price should be excise tax for cigarettes is the recommendation developed by WHO, as an index to which countries who really decided to improve population’s health should aspire.

Gazeta.ru: In Russia, the excise does not exceed 40%.

Dr Bettcher: It's too little.

Gazeta.ru: But Russia is in the neighborhood with Ukraine and Bulgaria, and has a common border (3605 km) with China, which are not the most favorable countries in terms of legal production of cigarettes.

Dr Bettcher: Russia is a country with population’s income above the average, but the Russian excise tax on tobacco is lower than in many other developing countries in Europe. By 2020, Russia plans to raise the excise tax to 45%, and in Bulgaria and Romania, the poorest countries in Europe, the excise tax is now 64%, and by 2020 it is surely to grow.

In most European countries excise tax reaches 66%. Russia as for the excise taxes on tobacco lags behind in the group of countries with above-average incomes. For this group, the excise tax now is 51%. It is not surprising that they smoke less in Europe than in Russia. So, I repeat, the Russian excise is ridiculous. The same is for the price of cigarettes in retail. The average pack of cigarettes in Europe is 3.71 international dollars, in Russia - 1.53.

Gazeta.ru: If due to the tax increase cigarettes become more expensive, then can smokers switch to electronic cigarettes? Especially that tobacco companies say that e-cigarettes are harmless.

Dr Bettcher: Office of Food and Drug Administration USA (FDA) back in 2009 made a stand against the use of this product. No confirmed scientific evidence exists that these products are safe. Electronic cigarettes often contain attractive flavors for young people that mimic the taste of candy, fruit, cream, cola. Finally their sale, contrary to traditional tobacco products, does not require age verification.

WHO says that as long as the manufacturers of electronic cigarettes (and most of them are made in China) do not conduct necessary research, electronic cigarettes will not be recognized as “legitimate method of therapy for smokers trying to quit”.

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