Health officials have asked the government of Laos to boost the price of cigarettes by ten percent to try to reduce the number of smokers in the country.
Authorities expect that if tobacco prices increase by ten percent, then the national smoking rate will drop by five percent, KPL reports.
Deputy Minister of Health, Dr. Sanong Thongsana, spoke at a recent National Assembly session, saying that increases in cigarette taxes are one of the most effective methods of discouraging smoking since they have no effect on production but help reduce the number of smokers.
“Laos has the lowest tobacco tax rate in ASEAN, at just 18.8%, whereas Cambodia has a tax rate of 25-30%, with Vietnam at 36%, while the rest of ASEAN has a rate of 60-80 percent, making tobacco control more effective than in Laos,” said Deputy Minister Sanong.
“Cigarette taxes must be increased on a regular basis in accordance with socio-economic growth, as well as the capacity to purchase cigarettes, inflation, and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” he said.
“The Ministry of Health will manage and administer the Tobacco Control Fund under the supervision of the National Tobacco Control Committee to ensure transparency, with 37 percent of the funds going to tobacco-related activities, 32 percent to national health insurance, 25% to improving health services, and 6% to administrative tasks,” Dr. Sanong Thongsana added.
Due to the low relative cost of smoking, the number of smokers has increased in Laos from 25 percent of the population in 2012 to 27.9 percent in 2015.
Health officials say some 6,700 people die from smoking-related diseases each year, with the use of e-cigarettes on the rise among youth.
The health sector has observed an increase in lung cancer, atherosclerosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among smokers, costing the nation over LAK 28 billion per year in treatment.