ASEAN must step up implementation of tobacco tax policies for health and revenue generation

Siem Reap, 12 July 2017: ASEAN governments should do more to make their tobacco tax policies more effective. This is the main recommendation of the second ‘SEATCA Tobacco Tax Index: Implementation of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 6 in ASEAN Countries,’ released today by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) during a regional workshop on strengthening tobacco tax administration.  

The world’s first Tobacco Tax Index by SEATCA tracks progress of tobacco tax policy against the WHO FCTC Article 6 Guidelines and shows that while some countries have made significant progress in formulating and implementing tobacco tax policies, the region as a whole had advanced slowly in the past few years, outpaced by economic and income growth.

“Most countries have no long-term tobacco tax policies with regularly adjusted fiscal and public health targets. Important obstacles in some countries are their ineffective tobacco tax structures (such as Indonesia’s multi-tiered system or those with purely ad valorem tax systems), weak tax administration, and tobacco industry interference to weaken tax policy or reduce tax collection efforts,” said Ms. Sophapan Ratanachena, SEATCA’s Tobacco Tax Program Manager.

Main findings in the report include:

  • Cigarettes are becoming more affordable in ASEAN countries;
  • In the ASEAN region, Thailand currently has the highest tax burden as a percentage of retail price (70%), followed closely by Singapore (66.2%) and Brunei (62%). In contrast, countries with the lowest tax burdens are Cambodia (25-31.1%) and Lao PDR (16-19.7%);
  • Only four (Brunei, Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore) out of the ten ASEAN countries tax all tobacco products in a comparable manner;
  • Lao PDR, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam have successfully earmarked tobacco excise revenues for tobacco control, health promotion, and universal health care.

Based on international guidelines, the report urges governments to:

  • Implement long-term tobacco tax policies that include public health targets;
  • Apply a uniform specific tax system or a mixed system with a minimum specific tax floor
  • Tax all tobacco products in a comparable way;
  • License all stages of tobacco production and sale;
  • Require tobacco companies to periodically submit detailed financial reports;
  • Establish a tracking and tracing system, including fiscal markings with a unique identifier, to reduce the risk and assist in investigations of illicit trade;
  • Prohibit tax-free or duty-free tobacco products;
  • Implement a code of conduct for all government ministries and officials that prohibits unnecessary government interactions with the industry.

“Legislating substantial tax increases, strengthening tobacco tax administration, and protecting tax policy from tobacco industry interference are equally important for saving lives, raising revenues, and controlling illicit trade,” said Ratanachena.

“This is echoed in a resolution adopted in June 2017 by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) that not only gives due attention to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, which recognizes that, tobacco taxation can be an effective and important means to reduce tobacco consumption and health-care costs and represent a revenue stream for financing for development in many countries, but also encourages UN agencies to develop and implement policies on preventing tobacco industry interference in order to ensure a consistent and effective separation between the activities of the United Nations system and those of the tobacco industry,” added Ratanachena.

Tobacco tax experts from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam, are meeting in Siem Reap to exchange information, expertise, and best practices in the management of tobacco taxes, identifying gaps and ways to strengthen the administration of tobacco taxes in ASEAN.


Wendell C Balderas, Media and Communications Manager – SEATCA
Email: | Mobile: +63 999 881 2117 ##

Related links:

  • SEATCA Tobacco Tax Index: Implementation of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 6 in ASEAN Countries, 2017 –



SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance working to promote health and save lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the evidence-based tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control movements in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.