Dec 05, 2015 News
-says raised taxation for tobacco will not increase illicit trade.
Public Health Minister George Norton yesterday refuted a claim by Demerara Tobacco Limited
that they were excluded from the consultation process for the drafting of Guyana’s new tobacco legislation, which will be tabled early 2016.
Norton said the Ministry would have singled out all stakeholders for consultation on the Bill and as such is confident that it did a “good work” in gathering all of them.
“If what they are saying is true, then we will put measures in place to meet with them,” he stated. The tobacco company had alleged that it was excluded from the consultation process for the drafting of the new tobacco legislation.
Managing Director, Maurlain Argyle-Kirton, had stated that she was disturbed that the company was not included in the consultations which were ongoing for years. She also stated that her company had not yet “laid eyes” on the content of the Bill.
She explained that despite many attempts to have engagement with the Public Health Ministry, no one from the Ministry sought to meet DemToCo.
The new tobacco legislation is intended to protect present and future generations from the “devastating harms” of tobacco use, exposure to tobacco smoke and specifically to prevent tobacco use among youths. The legislation would also seek to ensure that the public is protected from the commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry, while preventing the illicit trade in tobacco products.
One of the measures in the legislation is to raise taxation for tobacco products, which might eventually cripple the tobacco industry in Guyana. Argyle-Kirton suggested that this proposed hike in tobacco taxation would only lead to an increase in the illicit trade in tobacco products.
She said Suriname is a bona fide example of a rise in the illicit trade following an increase in taxation. “They woke up one morning to increase the taxes, driven by PAHO to raise it by 75 percent of the retail price and today illicit trade is 40 percent and growing,” she explained.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), on the other hand, had argued that the tobacco industry is among those that profit from this illegal trade and thus urged its member countries, which includes Guyana to ratify the Protocol to Eliminate the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.
The Protocol would help to smother this trade through a range of measures relating to the tobacco supply chain, including the licensing of imports, exports and manufacture of tobacco products; the establishment of tracking and tracing systems; and the imposition of penal sanctions on those responsible for illicit trade. It would also criminalize illicit manufacturing and cross-border smuggling of tobacco products.
Norton insisted that the Demerara Tobacco contention on increased taxes was false. He stated that the increase will neither cripple Guyana’s economy nor increase the illegal trade.
“What they are saying is not true at all and this will be defended in the Bill when it’s tabled in Parliament,” he argued, adding that during consultations the Ministry did a thorough analysis of the economic effects on raised taxes.
“The effect of tobacco use as it relates to causing non-communicable diseases runs any country in debt faster than increasing the taxes,” he explained.
He said that even though the industry is very powerful, the Ministry is neither afraid nor threatened by them.
“We are here to protect the health of the nation…that comes first,” he stated.
The Charity Cancer Research UK (CRUK) organization has indicated that tripling tobacco tax globally would cut smoking by a third, and avoid 200 million premature deaths this century from lung cancer and other diseases.
The researchers stated that increasing taxes by a large amount per cigarette would motivate people to quit smoking altogether rather than switch to a cheaper brand.
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