Women and children should be the main beneficiaries of a health and welfare surcharge levied on the sales of cigarettes, health promotion and child-protection groups, along with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏), said on Friday.
Under the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act (菸害防制法), the surcharge on tobacco sales should be reviewed and adjusted every two years. However, four years have passed since the last proposed increase in the levy, said Wang, who cited a survey conducted by the Bureau of Health Promotion showing that more than 82 percent of those polled supported increasing the surcharge and directing money raised from it to public health promotions.
On May 9, the Cabinet approved raising the health and welfare surcharge on a pack of cigarettes from NT$20 to NT$40, as well as increasing the sales tax on cigarettes from NT$11.8 per pack to NT$16.8, under amendments to the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act and the Tobacco and Liquor Tax Act (菸酒稅法).
The Child Welfare League Foundation, the Taiwan Child and Adolescent Health Alliance, the National Alliance of Parents Organization and the Breastfeeding Association of Taiwan and Wang all called on the government to use funds raised through surcharges on cigarette sales to subsidize “the five major shortcomings” in women and children’s healthcare.
The “shortcomings” are amniotic fluid and ultrasound tests for pregnant women, vaccination for children, medical services for women and children in rural areas, and prevention of myopia in children.
“For example, the PCV13 [pneumococcal conjugate] vaccine is not covered by government subsidies for children up to two years old, only for those between two and five. However, it is needed most by kids up to two years of age,” Wang said .
“If their parents want them to receive the vaccine, they have to pay NT$3,000 per injection, with four jabs needed to complete the course,” she added.
Centers for Disease Control official Chen Ying-hwei (陳穎慧) agreed and said that if the surcharge is to increase under a forthcoming amendment, an estimated NT$500 million to NT$600 million (US$ 16.7 million to US$20.1 million) could be raised, which could then be used to finance PCV13 vaccinations for children under two years old.