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Tax hikes assist China's anti-smoking efforts(2)
Time:01 Jun 2015
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Source: Ecns

"I am used to smoking two brands at the same time: an 'ordinary' one that is 10 yuan per package and a 'good' one that is 22 yuan per package," he said.

"Now prices for both brands have grown by one yuan per package, which means that I will spend another 30 yuan every month. Well, that's no big deal," he said.

Xiao Ding, a fourth-year college student in Shanghai, has been smoking for four years.

"After hearing the news that cigarette prices would rise earlier this month, my friends and I joked about stocking up on cigarettes," he said.

"The Hongshuangxi cigarettes I used to smoke have just increased by one yuan to 30 yuan per package," he said. "Even if prices do rise a lot, I may just turn to a cheaper brand."

He said neither he nor his smoker friends intend to quit despite the price change.

Yang said the large price gaps between different brands pose an obstacle for tobacco control, since cheap cigarettes have seen only minimal price hikes and remain affordable for even the poorest consumers. The cheapest cigarettes are around two yuan per package, while high-end ones cost more than 100 yuan.

Zheng said the influence of the price rise may seem limited for now, since those who are addicted to cigarettes won't easily quit.

However, in the long run, anticipation of rising prices may deter those who are infrequent smokers or thinking about starting, she said.

Yang agreed that it should take at least a year to evaluate the effects of the tax hike by observing sales volume.


China is home to 300 million smokers and 740 million more who are exposed to second-hand smoke.

Yang suggested that the country should continue to push up the retail price of cigarettes in the coming years to effectively curb smoking. She said the WHO has recommended that at least 70 percent of the retail price of cigarettes in China should come from taxes, compared to the current 50 percent.

Zheng suggested that China adjust the tax rate of cigarettes according to economic data such as the CPI every year to ensure that cigarette prices rise in accordance with consumers' purchasing power.

She said in addition to adjusting the price, the country should create a more favorable environment for smoking control through legislation.

China has accelerated its anti-smoking campaign over the past year. The top legislature adopted an amendment to the Advertisement Law in April, banning tobacco advertising in mass media, public places and outdoors.

Beijing will pilot the country's toughest smoking ban starting June 1, prohibiting smoking in all indoor public places, workplaces, and on public transportation.

Yang said it will take a combination of measures for the country to really create a smoke-free environment. (A Xiu and Xiao Ding are pseudonyms)

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