Investing in tobacco control accelerates race to end poverty and ensures healthy lives

Bangkok, Thailand – 30 August 2016: It is possible to end poverty within the next 14 years. Today, government officials from nine countries in the ASEAN region, development partners including the ASEAN Secretariat, World Health Organization, United Nations Development Programme, World Bank, and civil society join hands to help countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by investing in tobacco control.

At last year’s UN General Assembly, world leaders agreed on 17 SDGs, including one on health, as a means of ending poverty for all by 2030. To help advance the development agenda, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), in close collaboration with the Thailand Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) organized a regional workshop on “Achieving Sustainable Development Goals by Investing in FCTC Implementation”.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is explicitly identified as a means to achieve the SDG health goal, because tobacco is a known driver of poverty, not only damaging health, but also causing devastating social, economic, and environmental harms to the world. About 500,000 people in the ASEAN region are killed by tobacco every year. Effective tobacco control is essential to eliminate poverty, and accelerated implementation of the WHO FCTC should be included in each country’s development planning, including long-term policies for tobacco taxation and to secure and provide financial support for the implementation of various tobacco control programs.

Tobacco tax increases not only save lives by discouraging tobacco consumption but also raise much needed revenues that can finance health and social development programs. For example, tobacco tax revenues in the Philippines were earmarked by law as a source of sustainable financing for the country’s Universal Health Coverage, which paid health insurance premiums for about 14.7 million poor families in 2014, up from only 5.2 million families in 2013.  

“This workshop is a timely call for governments to work hand in hand with development partners to establish sustainable financing mechanisms for health for all in the ASEAN region and beyond. ThaiHealth would be very happy to give technical assistance to ASEAN countries interested in this based from our experience over the past 15 years. Earmarked tobacco tax is highly recommended and it is a win-win policy as tobacco tax increase significantly increased excise revenues, while part of the revenue can be used for universal health coverage and other health programs. Countries must take these important steps now to save lives and achieve the SDGs by 2030,” remarked ThaiHealth CEO, Dr. Supreda Adulyanon. 

Thailand provides an example of how to successfully fund public health programmes through a 2% surcharge tax on tobacco and alcohol products. Currently, these earmarked revenues amount to USD 125 million (4.111.31 million baht with 1 USD equals to 33 Baht) annually. A similar funding mechanism exists in Vietnam.

“In the race against time to save lives, lack of funds should not be an excuse. A wealth of experience exists in the ASEAN region as governments come together and share their expertise on tobacco taxation and earmarking tax revenues as a logical and practical source of sustainable financing to achieve the SDGs by 2030. This is a crucial time for governments to consider feasible and sustainable financing mechanisms, such as dedicated tobacco and alcohol tax revenues, as part of public financing towards achieving SDGs, especially health goals,” said SEATCA Executive Director, Ms. Bungon Ritthiphakdee.


Wendell C Balderas, Media and Communications Officer – SEATCA
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