Illicit tobacco trade is more than just taxation - Dr Tufton
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has said that the illicit tobacco trade remains a source of great concern in Jamaica, the Caribbean, and the wider world, noting that it should be viewed as a serious crime.
“I pause to make the argument that there is a direct relationship between the illicit trade and the extent of taxes, and I, as one who studies economics have heard that theory advanced in other quarters, and I wanted to check to see for myself what the evidence suggests or supports,” said Tufton. He was addressing the recent World Health Organisation (WHO) framework convention on Tobacco Control Multi-sectoral Workshop to promote the protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products, in Montego Bay.
Estimates show that if the illicit trade in tobacco were eliminated globally, governments would gain at least US$30 billion annually in tax revenue, and one million premature deaths would be avoided every six years owing to higher average cigarette prices and lower consumption.
Last year, Marcus Steele, managing director of Carreras Jamaica called on the Government to develop a sustainable tobacco tax policy with a view of stamping out or reducing the illicit tobacco trade in the domestic market.
“The company continues to impress upon the Government the need for a sustainable tobacco [tax] policy that recognises the direct link between increasing tobacco [tax] and the proliferation of illegal cigarettes within the market. Carreras remains ready to support the Government in the fight against the illicit trade,” said Steele.
Meanwhile, Tufton urged stakeholders to remain focused on ensuring that the illicit trade was not just a national crime, but a transnational crime that requires the appropriate agencies of government to support the public health challenges of overcoming tobacco consumption.