Bureau of Health Promotion Director-General Chiu Shu-ti (邱淑媞) yesterday defended the bureau’s proposal to increase the tobacco health and welfare surcharge, saying the surcharge adjustment was aimed at safeguarding the physical well-being of Taiwanese.
Chiu made the remark when approached by reporters, following days of relentless effort to lobby lawmakers on the surcharge increase proposal.
According to the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act (菸害防制法), a health surcharge of NT$1,000 should be imposed on every 1,000 cigarettes and the competent authories must review the amount of the surcharge every two years.
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 increase in 2006, which was increased to NT$10 in 2009, culminating in the current charge of NT$20 per pack.
Statistics showed that the smoking rate is highest among males aged between 18 and 39 who graduated from junior-high schools or below, Chiu said, adding that economically disadvantaged people are especially vulnerable to the vicious cycle of smoking habits.
“When people from meager financial backgrounds start smoking, their habits make them susceptible to diseases, which may further worsen their economic situation,” Chiu said.