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Sin tax increases applauded

Activists yesterday applauded the government's move to raise the sin tax on cigarettes and liquor as helping to reduce social ills in the country.

"More than half of offences are related to alcohol consumption," said Thirapat Kahawong, head of an antialcohol network.

He was among 30 activists showing up at the Excise Department to express support for the government's decision.

Jadet Chaowilai, an adviser to the Network of Alcohol Victims, pointed out that the move would reduce injuries, disabilities and deaths caused by drinking.

"The move is for the good health and wellbeing of people," he said.

The tax rate will rise to Bt350 from Bt300 per litre, resulting in the price of white spirit going tup to Bt150 from Bt120. The rate for imported whiskey was set at Bt400 per litre.

For cigarettes, the hike will see an increase of between Bt6 to Bt8 per packet of eight local and imported brands.

According to a study commissioned by Thai Health Promotion Foundation, the higher cigarette price will reduce the number of Thai smokers by about 0.5 per cent.

Today, Thailand has been home to about 13 million smokers.

"The number of smokers should drop by between 60,000 and 70,000," the foundation's deputy manager Supreeda Adulyanon said.

"We will have to introduce other measures too such as limiting the availability of cigarettes," he said.

Although it is widely said that the hike would significantly boost the government's revenue, Supreeda said the sin tax was dwarfed in the face of damages caused by the consumption of cigarettes/liquor.

"The government has now had shouldered huge financial burden from providing treatment to liquor/cigaretterelated illnesses," Supreeda pointed out.

Action on Smoking and Health Foundation Thailand secretary general Dr Prakit Wateesatogkit urged the government to increase cigarette tax every year in line with inflation rate.

The last hike took place more than three years ago.

Wuttisak Seena, a smoker and a drinker, did not like the higher tax rate though. "It hits lowincome people hard. The higher price won't really stop people from drinking and smoking because those habits have already become a part of our lives," he said.


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