The hip-pockets of China’s 300 million smokers are about to get even lighter, following an increase to the wholesale tobacco tax.
The levy on cigarettes was raised from five to 11 percent this week by China’s Ministry of Finance, reports Shanghai Daily.
The move is just the latest government measure as it seeks to counter smoking in China, which taxes the lungs of 740 million people, accounting for passive smoke inhalation.
Last year, Beijing banned smoking in all indoor places, with the regulation scheduled to come into effect in June. However, given the tendency of many Chinese smokers to totally ignore such restrictions, policy makers have decided to also hit them where it hurts.
Yet, the price of cigarettes in China remains relatively affordable, with some brands going for 10 RMB (US$1.60) a pack. The current tax rate is far below the level recommended by the World Health Organisation—70 percent of the retail price.
In Shanghai, more than one in five people smoke, with a rising number of teenage girls admitting to their dirty habit.
Non-smokers will be hoping that between bans and tax increases, the anti-tobacco campaign can help dissipate the toxic clouds of smoke permeating restaurants and indoor venues in China—which the WHO found to be far more harmful than “hazardous” levels of air pollution.
By Liam Bourke