3 Responses

  1. Ian Anderson
    Ian Anderson May 2, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Thanks for your comments Ashley, and Richard. There was no specific estimate of the impact that second hand smoke had on under five mortality in the reports. However the WHO report cited in the blog did estimate that an additional 600,000 people died each year from second hand smoke globally, over and above the 5 million premature deaths that occurs amongst smokers. I agree, Ashley, that an increased excise tax would have a higher impact on the poor than the rich (ie is regressive) assuming those people are addicted and find it hard to quit. But raising the real price of tobacco through excise taxes is a particularly powerful way of discouraging uptake of tobacco use in the first place, especially amongst the young and the poor. Combined with other measures (banning tobacco advertising etc) an increase in the price of tobacco is a smart and cost-effective way of reducing tobacco use before it becomes addictive. Thanks again for your thoughtful observations. Ian

  2. Richard Begbie
    Richard Begbie April 30, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Distressing stuff, particularly given the ultra-high profile of attempts to deal with malaria and HIV/Aids. Thank you for the work put in here – also for Ashlee’s extra thoughts. Speaking of government crackdowns, research like this must surely add backbone and encouragement to Nicola Roxon in her present battle?

  3. Ashlee Betteridge
    Ashlee Betteridge April 30, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Interesting piece Ian. During my time in Indonesia, the impact of smoking on development was clear, particularly in the expenditure priorities in poor households outlined by the World Bank report. Child and youth uptake of smoking is also a significant issue in Indonesia – something which clearly impacts on child development and health (as does second-hand smoking in households — was there any correlation between smoking and under 5 mortality in the reports you cite? I would be interested to know).

    The tobacco companies in Indonesia are pervasive and will promote smoking aggressively to children and youth, even giving away cigarettes at festivals and young-person oriented events to get people started.

    However, would excise taxes be enough or could it create an even bigger problem for expenditure in poor households? Would people pay more and keep smoking if prices raised from taxation, and dedicate less of their limited income to essentials such as nutritious food? As much as smoking was seen as being cool in the West in the past, in some countries in Asia smoking is now correlated in people’s minds to manhood, coolness etc (even, crazily enough, to health by some people thanks to completely misleading advertising campaigns that still continue). There is also the addiction element. In Indonesia, from my experience, men are usually the ones who smoke so they may continue to purchase cigarettes, even if the prices rise, while women may be left to try to feed children with even less money etc. So there are gender considerations tangled up with the purchasing decisions.

    In my mind, governments need to crack down on the companies first — strict rules on advertising would be a good place to start, as would some strategic public education campaigns on the dangers of smoking. Then perhaps a slowly incremental excise tax combined with some kind of assistance for people wishing to quit.

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