Delaying tobacco excise taxes incensement would cost lives: international experts summed up the second WHO Eurasia Tobacco Tax Working Group

During September 23-26, the second Eurasia Tobacco Tax Working Group meeting was held in Kyiv, Ukraine. During this meeting, Government officials from the Ministries of Finance, Ministries of Health from 8 Eurasia countries together with WHO discussed key tobacco tax issues for the region including Customs Union tax harmonization, the health and economic impacts of smoking and different affordability measures. The final press conference was held on September 26th – to represent the results of the second WHO Eurasia Tobacco Tax Working Group.

Speaking with a foreword, Mykhola Prodanchuk, Director of Medved’s Institute of Ecohygiene and Toxicology said: “Our goal is the good health for this and future generations. It is proved that the reduction of tobacco use can be achieved only with the set of all possible tools: medical, economic and tax ones. I am confident that the results of this “kyiv” international experts’ meeting will be useful for all Eurasian countries participating in the fight against tobacco products!”

The WHO has been working with many countries in Eurasia to assess what can be achieved on tobacco taxation within the social and economic context of the region.

«In WHO assessment, The Custom Union countries and particularly Ukraine are more than capable of incrementally raising excise rates to achieve the equivalent of 90 euro by 2020. It is proved that such incremental increase would not damage the economy nor incite smuggling as taxes and prices in the region will still remain relatively low, compared with the european ones, for example. On the contrary, this target would generate much needed tax revenue for the Ukrainian government, reduce tobacco use and prevent millions of early deaths from smoking-related diseases», – said Aida Yurekli, WHO Chief Economist.

The WHO representative also expressed concern that the mortality from diseases caused by tobacco use in Eurasia has reached the level of 500,000 adult smokers each year and this number continues to grow. According to the WHO representative «keeping Ukrainian tobacco tax rates low through insufficient gradual increases is not good public health and economic policy for the Eurasia region and for the other countries in the globe as well».

“Ukraine is headed for full membership in the EU, so we just have to fulfill the requirements of the EU and significantly increase excise taxes on tobacco issues from 20 to 90 Euros per 1000. There are some positive practices from 8 Eastern European countries that joined the European community in 2004: they significantly increased tobacco excise taxes and simultaneously got more than twice from the tax revenue. However, there was no activation of smuggling and the total number of smokers has decreased significantly. What is more, , Russia had been increasing the excise taxes annually not less than 40% over the past 5 years – and also without negative economic consequences”, – said Konstantin Krasovskiy, Head of tobacco control unit, Ministry of Health of Ukraine.

Reference: WHO Eurasia Tobacco Tax Working Group was established in November 2012. The first working group meeting was held in Ankara in June 2013. The second working group meeting in Kiev was focused on discussing such issues as national health and economic impact of tobacco use, illicit trade of tobacco products and smuggling and construction of the models for assessing tobacco tax issues (TaXSiM).

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