Activists hurry tobacco tax bill stuck in Legislature

Wu Ya-le, TAIPEI, Taiwan, Special to the China Post

Anti-smoking activists yesterday urged lawmakers to quickly pass a law imposing a health tax on tobacco to help reduce the demand for cigarettes. Lin Chin-lin, chief of the anti-tobacco section under the John Tung Foundation, said the Tobacco and Alcohol Tax Law has been held up in the Legislature for over one year.

The bill seeks to raise the tax on tobacco from the current NT$250 to NT$400 per kilogram.

According to World Health Organization, a 10 percent rise in the price of tobacco will result in a 4 to 14 percent reduction in the demand for tobacco. Lin said the local prices of tobacco have been unable to catch up with the commodity prices in Taiwan.

During the past 20 years, the price of tobacco in Hong Kong has been raised about eight times, but in Taiwan it has been raised only once in the same period, she said. Lin added that the policy of high tobacco prices in New York has effectively cut the population of smokers. Chiang Yu-hwa, chief secretary of the Bureau of National Health Insurance, said the increase in tobacco tax will be a great help to the universal health care program, supplying it with an extra five years of funding of NT$4.2 billion.

“We know that smoking is bad for health,” Chiang continued.

Chiang noted that the medical care for smokers aged 35 and above needs about NT$15.9 billion a year.