In a bid to reduce cigarette consumption and to deter teenagers from taking up the habit, the Department of Health said yesterday that it will propose amendments to the Tobacco Control Act (菸害防治法) to raise the health tax levied on cigarettes from NT$5 to NT$10 per pack.
"We hope the price hike will help curb the increase in local smokers, particularly young smokers who don't have much pocket money," said Chao Kun-yu (趙坤郁), deputy director of the Bureau of Health Promotion.
There are an estimated 4.89 million smokers in this country, with more than 200,000 picking up the habit every year, according to the bureau's latest survey.
The nation spends about NT$20 billion a year on smoking-related illness, which kill an estimated 18,000 people here every year.
Health officials believe that a tax increase on cigarettes will effectively lower the scale of tobacco consumption.
"According to a World Health Organization report, a 10 percent price hike could cause cigarette sales to fall by 4 percent to 14 percent," Chao said.
"An increase in the tobacco tax is our best weapon in the battle against smoking," Chao said.
Since the Tobacco and Liquor Tax Law (菸酒稅法) took effect in 2002, a NT$5 "special health fee" is levied on each pack of locally produced cigarettes.
Last year, those NT$5 fees contributed nearly NT$10 billion to national coffers.
Seventy percent of the money was given to the Bureau of National Health Insurance and 10 percent was spent on anti-smoking campaigns.
The proposed hike in the special fee to NT$10 per pack would contribute another NT$10 billion to the treasury, health officials estimated.
The Department of Health will send its proposal to revise the Tobacco Control Act to the Executive Yuan by the end of next month.