Indonesia’s alarmingly high smoking rates can be attributed to many factors, chief among them the government’s hesitance to reduce and regulate cigarrette consumption, which has led to their ubiquitous availability and incredibly cheap prices.
One notably shocking statistic is that 67.4% of Indonesian males over 15 smoke, but a new survey shows that that number could be significantly curtailed if the government slapped a heavy tax on tobacco production, which would in turn raise cigarette prices.
Universitas Indonesia’s Public Health Faculty recently conducted a survey of 1,000 Indonesian smokers to gauge the relationship between smoking prevalence and cigarette prices. Unsurprisingly, the majority of respondents said they’d give up smoking if cigarettes were more expensive.
“As many as 72% said they’d quit smoking if a pack of cigarettes costs Rp 50,000 or more,” said lead researcher Hasbullah Thabrany, as quoted by Kompas.
Currently, a pack of cigarettes generally cost around Rp 20,000 in Indonesia.
Surprisingly, 76% of the respondents – all of whom are smokers, mind you – said they’ agree to a tobacco tax hike and overall increase in the price of cigarettes.
The government is well aware of the results of the survey.
“Making a pack of cigarettes cost Rp 50,000 is something that’s being communicated,” said Customs and Excise Director General Heru Prambudi, as quoted by Liputan6 yesterday.
However, Heru added that the government would have to look into the issue not just from a public health perspective, but from an economic perspective as well.
“We have to communicate this to all stakeholders, be it the pro-health or pro-industry, because [tobacco] farmers have a say in this too. If we only listen to one party, we can go bankrupt,” he said.
“If the price of cigarettes go beyond the optimum curve, there will be negative effects such as the death [of the tobacco industry] or the rise of illegal cigarettes.”
The survey estimated that the state would stand to earn around Rp 70 trillion annually from tax on tobacco if a pack of cigarettes were to cost Rp 50,000. Last year, the state earned Rp 139.5 trillion from tobacco taxes.
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