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Loss of tax behind extreme anti-vaping laws - research

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Smoking rates among men in Asia remain extraordinarily high by world standards, with Indonesian men aged 15 and over leading at 76.2 percent. Despite very high smoking rates, high taxes on tobacco and far more extensive bans on smoking than New Zealand, some Asian countries are banning harm reduced alternatives.

New Zealand’s support of smokers to switch to using electronic cigarettes or heated tobacco products was met with amazement at the 2nd Asia Harm Reduction Forum in Manila today. Leading tobacco control researcher Dr. Marewa Glover was at the Forum to outline New Zealand’s approach to tobacco harm reduction.

"There is global interest in New Zealand’s unique response to the new harm reduced technologies that are enabling so many people to quit smoking. The Asian countries are especially curious because of our close proximity, trade links, and some cultural similarities. Many of the Asian cultures, like Maori and Pacific Island peoples are family-centred cultures." said Dr Marewa Glover, Director of the Centre of Research Excellence: Indigenous Sovereignty and Smoking.

The scale of destruction caused by smoking tobacco in Asia is enormous. China loses the equivalent of the population of Auckland every year to smoking-related diseases. About 100 million people in India smoke. It remains to be seen what proportion of smokers in New Zealand have switched to vaping but, the common perception in New Zealand is it could be as much as a third of people who used to smoke now vape.

"If this rapid transition from smoking to harm reduced alternatives could be copied in Asian countries the public health benefits would be so great Governments would have to scramble to fix infrastructural and economic challenges that would arise from so many people living longer," Dr Glover said.

"The loss of tobacco tax revenue from reduced tobacco consumption would be a significant problem for some countries and fear of that is likely behind some of the extremely prohibitive laws to stop vaping." She said. "For instance, Japan, which experienced a surprisingly rapid drop in tobacco consumption following the introduction of heated tobacco products, moved swiftly to impose a complex tax regime on the new products so as to protect the Government revenue from tobacco. Indonesia has introduced such high taxes on vaping products, it is cheaper to keep smoking."

"It’s exciting that smokers now have choices that substantially reduce their risk of a tobacco related disease. However, to ensure all smokers get the chance to access this revolutionary public health phenomenon, smokefree advocates are going to need to help Governments identify ways to mitigate the negative economic impacts rapid mass quitting will have." Dr Glover said.

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