Tobacco Bill: $12b, 65,000 Deaths

Tobacco Bill: $12b, 65,000 DeathsTobacco Bill: $12b, 65,000 Deaths

In the last Iranian year (ended March 20), several steps were taken by the health ministry to fight tobacco consumption, but unfortunately, the “deceptions of importers, manufacturers and suppliers of tobacco had the upper hand,” said Dr. Ali Akbar Sayyari, deputy health minister.

Tobacco consumption caused 65,000 deaths and entailed $3 billion in the past year, IRNA quoted him as saying.

“All efforts to reduce tobacco use have been made, including increasing cigarette tax, but the results were not as expected,” he said, and hoped that the ministry would achieve better results this year through continuous monitoring and greater effort.

Cigarette companies have opposed tobacco tax increase by arguing that “raising cigarette prices will not reduce adult or youth smoking.” But the firms, as disclosed in various tobacco lawsuits, are aware that raising cigarette prices is one of the most effective ways to prevent and discourage smoking, especially among youngsters, IRNA reported.

Health Minister Seyed Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, says the annual cost of smokers’ treatment is about $6-9 billion which “is a heavy financial burden on the country.” Smoking is the main cause of many deadly health problems, including heart and lung diseases.

At present, cigarette tax is 11% which should be increased to 80% “to compensate for the costs on treatment of tobacco-related diseases.”

While some members of the Majlis (parliament) joint commission claim that increasing cigarette tax can help reduce domestic production, but encourage increase in smuggling, Hashemi says that “the poor control on cigarette smuggling is unrelated to tax increase.”

However, some members of the joint commission maintain that increase in cigarette prices reduces smoking.

 Not Passed

“On voting day, many of the commission members were absent, so the legislation to increase tobacco tax didn’t pass, with a thin margin  of 1 vote between proponents and opponents,” said Rajab Rahmani, a member of the commission, adding that “there are still chances of a successful vote in future meetings.”

Smoking places a tremendous economic burden on society worldwide. The World Health organization (WHO) estimates that “the drain on the world economy is so large that it exceeds the total annual expenditure on health in all low and middle-income countries.”

The economic costs of smoking extend beyond the direct costs of smoking-related illness and death and can be attributed to four elements including: healthcare expenditures attributed to treatment of smoking-related diseases; loss of earnings and reduced workplace productivity; the monetized value of premature mortality and disability; and also other indirect costs such as fire damage related to smoking.