Tobacco can be made less affordable, particularly to youth and the poor. by increasing tax to a minimum of 75 per cent of retail price on all tobacco products. According to The Tobacco Atlas, published by the American Cancer Society, Inc, tobacco tax is one of the best ways to reduce use of tobacco. "Making cigarettes four times more costly in all countries globally by 2025 would reduce the world's tobacco use prevalence from the current 21 per cent to 15 per cent in 2025," the Atlas said. Frequent and significant tax increase is especially needed in countries where consumer purchasing power is growing, it said.
The 12th Asia Pacific Conference on Tobacco or Health (APACT12), held in Indonesia Bali, from September 12-15, called upon the countries of the region to increase tobacco taxes. The conference also suggested to address hunger in the region by growing food in place of tobacco. Representatives of 28 countries participated in the conference titled "Tobacco Control for Sustainable Development Goals: Ensuring A Healthy Generation".
Tobacco control advocates from Bangladesh raised the issue of increasing trend of use of smokeless tobacco. They also expressed concern over foreign direct investment by Japan Tobacco International (JTI) in Bangladesh. Talking to this scribe, Arifin Panigoro, chairperson, APACT12th Indonesia, said tobacco companies in Indonesia are very influential. They control government's policy formulation and rules.
Indonesian health minister Nila Moeloek, said in his inauguration speech that their health ministry is trying to focus on increasing taxes to raise price of tobacco products.
All countries should adopt prominent graphic pack warnings, and ban pack displays at retail outlets within the next two years, a resolution said. In a session on use of social media for tobacco advertisement, speakers stressed the role of media to find out tactics of tobacco companies and make people aware of this.
The Bangladesh delegation placed a detailed presentation on interference of tobacco industries in policy making and tax measures in the country. Use of bidi and involvement of child labour in the bidi factories in Bangladesh were presented through e-poster during the conference. The delegation has recommended for eliminating use of child labour in tobacco cultivation by 2025. They called upon the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to end its collaboration with the tobacco industry immediately to align with the decision of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
Tobacco has its ill-effect on most of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Asia Pacific region needs to step up efforts to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs and the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
Partnership with the tobacco industry is detrimental to all SDGs and the FCTC. To ensure good governance, governments, scientists, research entities and civil society organisations must reject or terminate all partnerships or support from the tobacco industry. Governments should not promote tobacco trade and should also divest from tobacco businesses.