Wed, Nov 11, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Rumored tobacco plan criticized

SMOKING COSTS:John Tung Foundation’s Lin Ching-li said it opposes a surcharge hike because there is no monitoring mechanism for how funds are allocated

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

The nation’s premier anti-smoking lobby, the John Tung Foundation, yesterday said that it is against a rumored Ministry of Health and Welfare policy to increase a surcharge on tobacco products.

The Chinese-language China Times reported that the ministry is mulling a proposal to increase the Health and Welfare Surcharge on Tobacco Products from NT$20 to NT$40 because the Executive Yuan adjusted its distribution of the funds, with the National Health Insurance (NHI) to have NT$6 billion to NT$7 billion (US$182.6 million to US$213.1 million) cut from its budget annually.

The report said the NHI estimated that medical expenses for treating diseases caused by smoking accounts for between 6 and 15 percent of the nation’s total medical expense — about NT$50 billion per year, while the Health Promotion Administration (HPA) estimated an increase in income from NT$30 billion to NT$54 billion if the surcharge is doubled, with smoking rates predicted to drop.

Lin Ching-li (林清麗), head of the foundation’s tobacco control division, said the foundation is against the policy because there is no mechanism to monitor how the ministry allocates the funds it collects.

“Cigarette prices and tax revenue is falling behind [that in other nations], because the tobacco tax has not been adjusted in 28 years,” Lin said.

“The average price of cigarettes should be immediately increased to NT$75 per pack,” Lin said, adding that the price of cigarettes is relatively cheap when compared with other countries.

The foundation believes that an increase in the tobacco tax, rather than the surcharge, would be a better way to effectively discourage smoking, she added.

Separately, former ministers of the department of health Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) and Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) said if the surcharge is to be increased, the funds should not be included in the tax system, but used to protect public health.

Later yesterday, HPA Deputy Director-General Yu Li-hui (游麗惠) said that while a proposal to amend laws regarding tobacco were sent to the Legislative Yuan in May, “actually there is no agenda to amend any tobacco-related law scheduled for discussion in the current legislative session.”

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