Today the Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control released the following statement:
The Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control (JCTC) commends the Minister of Finance, Audley Shaw, for increasing the excise tax on tobacco products. The increase was announced by Minister Shaw in Parliament on May 12, 2016. The Special Consumption Tax (SCT) per stick will move from $12.00 to $14.00, a 16.6% increase.
The increase shows that the Government of Jamaica continues to be committed to meeting its treaty obligations, under the World Health Organization, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO/FCTC), particularly Article 6, which seeks to use taxation as a price measure to reduce the demand for tobacco products.
Research from dozens of countries, including Jamaica, clearly shows that increasing the real (i.e. inflation-adjusted) price of tobacco is the single most effective measure in reducing tobacco use among youth and adults alike.
Unfortunately, the recently announced adjustment of the SCT to $14 per stick falls short of bringing Jamaica to the current best practice recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) of at least 70% of the price of the product being due to taxation. Therefore, the JCTC encourages the Minister to make this the beginning of a stepwise increase in tobacco taxes in the interest of meeting both public health and revenue targets. In addition the JCTC recommends that the Government of Jamaica adjust the SCT on an annual basis to ensure that, at a minimum, the SCT increases by the inflation rate.
Globally increasing taxes assist Governments in recouping some of the tremendous cost of the health burden of tobacco use, encourages smokers to quit and others never to start and most importantly makes the product less affordable to the youth, often the target of tobacco industry’s advertising and sponsorship.
The JCTC is not surprised by the continued efforts of the tobacco industry to, in its self-interest, use the threat of illicit trade in lobbying against effective tobacco control policies. However, the actual evidence worldwide points to issues of corruption and border security as the real determinants of smuggling, rather than increased taxes. In fact, some of the European countries with the highest tobacco taxes have the lowest levels of illicit trade.
The JCTC believes the Government of Jamaica and the Jamaican Customs Department have taken the issue of illicit trade in tobacco products very seriously and have been taking steps to identify illicit imports and stem the flow of both counterfeit and contraband products.
We encourage the Government to continue the drive to bring the tax structure on cigarettes in line with the established best practice and recommendations of the FCTC and also to move ahead with plans for comprehensive tobacco control legislation, to protect our citizens from the devastating health and financial consequences of tobacco use.