A recently published news article falsely claims that the WHO is intending to impose a tobacco tax on India. We do however find it a good idea that members of the 43 “G-20+” countries make a voluntary solidarity contribution, as this may help fund alternatives to the cultivation of tobacco.

At the turn of the year 2011/2012, there was a report going around in the Indian and international press, according to which the World Health Organization (WHO) had requested a 250 million rupee tax (about 35.8 million euro) from the Indian government. The article states that the tax would be levied on the grounds of non-adherence to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

The article states the following:

“Official sources said, the tax called as ‘solidarity tobacco tax’ has been imposed on 43 countries for not complying with the proposed anti-tobacco measures in 2008-09.”

The article- effectively keeping the same content and citing no sources- was reproduced in several newspapers and online resources (for example in the Indian “Business Standard”).

The WHO denies

As the World Health Organization announced on the 10th January, these reports are unfounded. The WHO levies no solidarity tobacco tax, neither from India nor from any other country, and it is not planning on doing so. The organisation levies absolutely no other taxes and is furthermore not authorised to do so.

We do however welcome the proposal of a voluntary tax on tobacco products, as mentioned in a discussion paper recently issued by the WHO. The report indicates that  a duty amounting to up to one cent per cigarette pack would help cushion the worldwide increase in health costs. The consumption of tobacco products is the most frequent cause of noninfectious diseases such as cancer and heart attack. If enforced, such a tax would bring in 5. 26 billion euros from the 43 “G20+” countries 1. This sum would help reach the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) by, for instance, being invested in the reduction of child mortality (MDG 4) in Southern countries.

Unfairtobacco.org: “Good idea!”

We believe that the concept of a voluntary solidarity tobacco tax currently being considered is a good idea. It would be a concrete step towards the implementation of the FCTC’s article 26. The money raised through the tax should however directly be invested in the implementation of the FCTC and could be used to fund projects investigating alternatives to tobacco farming. Several countries, such as Malawi, urgently need help, in order for their tobacco growers to shift to other crops.

The contribution would also help level out the gap between the global North and South. The German State makes around 13 billion euros from the existing tobacco tax- that’s 21 times the amount available to the Malawian government to run its own household.

We believe that the concept of a voluntary solidarity tobacco tax currently being considered is a good idea. It would be a concrete step towards the implementation of the FCTC’s article 26.