Department of Health (DOH) Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) yesterday floated the idea of increasing the tobacco health and welfare surcharge by NT$20 per pack, but added the department would make further evaluations before coming to a final decision.
Chiu made his remarks during an interview with the Chinese-language United Evening News yesterday.
According to the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act (菸害防制法), the department has the authority to re-evaluate the Tobacco Health and Welfare Surcharge (added to tobacco products’ consumer price). Three years have passed since the surcharge was last raised in 2009, Chiu was quoted as saying in the interview, adding that it is necessary to consider another raise.
The surcharge was advocated by civic groups in 2000 and a surcharge of NT$5 per pack was first imposed in 2002, followed by another NT$5 raise in 2006, which was increased to NT$10 in 2009, culminating in the current charge of NT$20 per pack.
Compared with places such as Hong Kong, China and some countries in Southeast Asia, tobacco products in Taiwan are relatively cheap and many visitors from overseas often buy cigarettes in Taiwan to bring back to their home countries, Chiu said.
The relatively low prices of tobacco products have made it difficult to reduce the smoking rate among young people in Taiwan, he added.
“The smoking rate would obviously drop if the Tobacco Health and Welfare Surcharge was increased,” Chiu was quoted as saying in the interview, adding that taking into account the average price of tobacco products around the world, the current surcharge would ideally be increased to NT$40.
Separately, Tobacco and Liquor Corp president Hsu An-hsuen (徐安旋) was quoted by the United Evening News as saying that if the surcharge is increased by NT$20 at once, the price of most cigarettes would be about NT$100 per pack and such a large increase in price would greatly impact the market.
In addition, cheap counterfeit cigarettes and smuggled tobacco are already causing serious problems in the tobacco market, Hsu said, adding that if the increase of the surcharge is too big and the existing issues are unsolved, the industry’s problems will only get worse.