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Tax on cigarettes should be 70% higher, SA anti-smoking council says

The National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) is lobbying the government in South Africa to increase the tax on cigarettes by 70%, writes Zimasa Matiwane for Business Day.

Increasing excise taxes is‚ according to NCAS executive director Savera Kalideen‚ the best way to reduce consumption and address the deficit between money spent on prevention versus the treatment of diseases caused by smoking.

“The tax increase means the price of the product increases‚ making it less affordable to the smoker. Higher prices also discourage adolescents and teenagers from starting to smoke.

“Smokers therefore either cut down or stop completely. This‚ in turn‚ reduces the tobacco-related harm‚ including the burden of disease and death‚” Kalideen said.

“Taxes collected from tobacco sales do not cover the harm caused by the cigarettes they produce — R13bn in tax income versus R59bn in tobacco-related harm‚” she explained.

She said NCAS wanted tax gained from the industry to go towards prevention.

She said the illicit cigarette trade‚ which made cigarettes cheaper as they were not declared at the South African Revenue Service (Sars) and not taxable‚ was another challenge that law enforcement should deal with.

“Illicit cigarettes is a criminal activity. It's not the person that is buying but the one making them available who is the problem. When someone is doing something illegal we expect the law-enforcement agencies to find those criminals and stop them‚” Kalideen said.

Ilze Enslin from Sars’s legal policy unit said the tax-collecting agency was making inroads in clamping down on the illicit cigarette trade.

“An integrated approach with various business units within Sars has led to a seizure of 61.4-million sticks of cigarettes in 2017 during 383 enforcement actions‚” she said.

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