LAO PDR tobacco control fund builds momentum for healthier ASEAN

The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) on Thursday congratulated the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on its passage of a decree establishing a tobacco control fund. The new law will see the fund built on a 2-percent tax on tobacco industry profits. It will also allow a specific increase of 200 Lao Kip(LAK) per cigarette pack, proceeds of which will also go the tobacco control fund.

SEATCA Director Bungon Ritthiphakdee said, “We commend the dedicated and hardworking tobacco control advocates and the collective efforts of the Ministry of Finance
and Ministry of Health. Hand in hand they were able to achieve this milestone benefitting the people of Lao PDR.”

With the 2 percent tax and the 200 LAK per pack, the government projects to generate as much as US$6-million per year for the tobacco control fund. This will go to strengthening the National Health Insurance program, and also help in improving health care equipment and tobacco control activities across 17 Lao provinces.

“It is important to remember that funds for tobacco control can be used as a tool to diminish the impact of smoking-related diseases and all major Non-communicable diseases(NCDs), and thus mitigates economic and social burdens,” Ritthiphakdee said. “This new law will ensure that millions of premature deaths and disabilities can be prevented in time.”

Countries in ASEAN that have benefitted from having additional revenues for tobacco control to support health promotion are Thailand, via the Thaihealth Promotion Foundation, and MySihat or the Malaysia Health Promotion Board. They have led the way in ASEAN and are reaping the health benefits, accelerating implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and most importantly, reducing NCDs risk factors in their countries.

Laos’ achievement “continues to build momentum for greater, more effective tobacco control in Southeast Asia.” Ritthiphakdee noted that the development comes on the heels of the passage of a Vietnam Tobacco Control Law, a Sin Tax law in the Philippines, and a new PP regulation in Indonesia.

Lao PDR has a 40.3% smoking prevalence among adults (above 18 years old) – 67.7% among males 16% among females. The Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) says that smoking prevalence among Lao youths (13-15 year olds) increased among boys and girls from 2003 to 2011.(ENDS)