Sky-high prices stub out smoking

Tax on Cigarettes is discouraging smokers, but many are turning to the black market

Tax on Cigarettes is discouraging smokers, but many are turning to the black market Strict legislation and steep price increases have hit smokers so hard that More people are resorting to cheaper — but More hazardous — contraband Cigarettes. A recent World Health Organisation report shows that there has been a decline in cigarette smoking in South Africa, a trend that has been welcomed by Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. The decrease has been attributed to steep increase in the price of Cigarettes and More people leaning towards a healthier lifestyle. According to the report, tobacco taxes in South Africa increased by 250 percent during the 1990s and now make up slightly less than half the retail price. “Cigarette consumption fell by 5percent to 7percent for every 10percent increase in the price of Cigarettes, resulting in the sharp decline in consumption. The largest smoking decreases were among the young and the poor,” the report stated. The report also indicated that consumption decreased from close to 2billion packs of Cigarettes in 1990 to 1.3billion in 2005. Forty percent of the decrease was attributable to smokers quitting because of the price increase. Shan Biesman-Simons, director of nutrition and education at the Heart and Stroke Foundation, said: “Because there’s no regulation, contraband Cigarettes are an increasing problem.” She said price increases were a deterrent against smoking in poorer communities. The loWest rate of quitting was in the higher income bracket. “Those who earn More are less likely to quit,” she said. She said younger women and teenagers were smoking More. The chairman and chief executive officer of the Tobacco Institute of South Africa, Francois van der Merwe, said that though the institute supported the government’s efforts to curb smoking it was difficult to quantify the consumption of illegal products. “In the period when smoking decreased, the consumption of smuggled Cigarettes has risen from zero to 20percent. There are 10 million illegal Cigarettes sold in this country every day.” Van der Merwe said cigarette smuggling syndicates didn’t pay taxes — and smuggled Cigarettes were More of a risk to people’s health as their manufacture was not regulated. “The factories that churn out these cheaper Cigarettes are not interested in abiding by health regulations and smokers are not aware of how much nicotine and tar there is in them,” he said. “In the past 13 years, the tax on Cigarettes has increased by 750percent. People who can’t afford them look for cheaper varieties and the illegal market is giving them that.” National health department spokesman Sibani Mngadi said: “We are hoping that the Tobacco Act is amended this year. That will allow us to introduce warning pictures on packs and stop even More people smoking.”


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