BANGKOK – Dr.Prakit Vathesatogkit, chairman for a panel on non-communicable disease control made the proposal yesterday that Thailand’s “sin taxes” should be raised with the money being spent on helping fund the government’s universal coverage (UC) healthcare scheme.
Dr.Prakit Vathesatogkit stated that with a 10% increase in tobacco tax would lead to a 4% drop in cigarette smoking among the population, while also easing the government’s financial burden in running the healthcare scheme.
Smokers, particularly those in the lower income bracket, will be deterred by the more expensive cigarettes and some may end up quitting the habit altogether.
The government would gain a hefty increase in tax revenue from raising tobacco tax, he said. Under the previous excise tax increase, excise tax revenues went up from 15 billion baht in 1993 to 60 billion baht last year, he said.
The WHO has always emphasized that raising tobacco taxes offers a triple bonus — leading to better public health, helping cut healthcare expenses and increasing state tax revenues, he said.
Aside from trying to find more sources of funding for its healthcare scheme, the government should also pay more attention to controlling unhealthy products, especially tobacco and alcohol, that are considered among the six top causes of health problems facing Thais, he said.
The UC health scheme itself follows a principle which says that preventing sickness and promoting good health takes precedence over medical treatment, he said. The government has recently aired concerns about its cost.
Cigarette smoking causes sickness and death from cancer as well as heart disease and emphysema which are expensive to treat, he said, adding many patients require lengthy treatment which still fails to save their lives. Each year, more than 50,000 people die from chronic diseases associated with tobacco use, while more than one million on average receive treatments for these diseases, he said.
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