Government Urged to Consider Increase to Tobacco Tax

A Cambodian man smokes a cigarette near a traffic sign along a street in Phnom Penh on May 31, 2013. (Photo: AFP)
  • Ou Sokmean and Phoung Vantha
  • May 18, 2021 3:46 AM

According to the Cambodia Movement for Health, the additional revenues generated by a higher rate of tax could provide huge benefits to Cambodia, on top of reducing the number of smokers nationwide.

PHNOM PENH--The Cambodia Movement for Health (CMH) said on May 17 that the most effective measure to encourage people to successfully quit smoking is to raise tobacco taxes.

Raising taxes, the CMH said, would reduce the number of smokers by making tobacco less accessible. This, they said, would reduce the number of deaths, disabilities and illnesses caused by smoking.

Tobacco use causes hemorrhagic stroke, chronic bronchitis, heart attack, lung cancer, oral cancer, the CMH pointed out.

Dr. Mom Kong, executive director of CMH said that raising the tobacco tax will not only reduce the number of deaths and illnesses caused by tobacco using but also provide the government with more tax revenue to use in social affairs.

Raising taxes on tobacco products is a win-win strategy that gives Cambodia more revenue and can even reduce the impact caused by the use of tobacco products, he added.

According to a United Nations' study on tobacco control in 2019, Cambodia could receive an estimated $235 million in additional tax revenue over the next five years and $933 million over the next 15 years if the government raises taxes on tobacco products to 75 percent of the retail price of cigarettes.

Cambodia has one of the lowest tariff rates on tobacco products in ASEAN after Laos PDR. Currently, the tariff rate on tobacco products compares retail prices in Cambodia to 25 percent for domestic cigarettes and 31.1 percent for imported cigarettes, while Thailand has 70 percent retail tariffs, Singapore 67.5 percent, and Myanmar charges between 50 percent and 60 percent.

Each year some 15,000 Cambodians die from diseases caused by tobacco use. In addition, tobacco use causes a loss of 649 million per year, equivalent to 3 percent of Cambodia's gross domestic product.

Of that, $584 million was due to the loss of economic productivity, premature death, reduced productivity by smoking cessation, and absenteeism, according to the UN's study.

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