Tobacco Tax Index 2021 says ASEAN region making slow progress in tobacco tax efforts

Press Statement: 19 MAY 2021

Based on the 2021 edition of the Tobacco Tax Index—an appraisal by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) of the ASEAN region’s application of tobacco tax measures – ASEAN governments should strengthen and accelerate implementation of tobacco tax policies to continually reduce tobacco use. The report was launched during the recent Tobacco Tax Index and Cigarette Tax Scorecard webinar co-organized by SEATCA with the Tobacconomics Project based at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The Tobacco Tax Index is the world’s first index examining implementation of tobacco tax measures as stipulated in the Article 6 (price and tax measures) guidelines of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

Key findings of the report reflected that overall, cigarettes continue to grow more affordable in ASEAN countries despite government efforts in some countries to reform tax structures and raise tax rates. Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Myanmar registered the lowest tax share of retail price.  

Progress in tobacco tax administration, such as supply chain security measures and bans on duty-free tobacco, has been slow. In the past two years, only Malaysia has imposed excise tax on tobacco products sold at duty-free shops beginning 2021, similar to the Philippines, whose tax on duty-free tobacco began in 2013; only Brunei and Singapore ban all duty-free tobacco products.

The Tobacconomics Project’s Cigarette Tax Score Card reinforced SEATCA’s Tobacco Tax Index. Based on cigarette price, affordability, tax share, and tax structure, most ASEAN countries achieved low scores.

In the ASEAN, the Philippines leads with an overall cigarette tax score of 3.75, followed closely by Singapore (3.8) and Malaysia (2.88).

Both SEATCA and Tobacconomics reiterated that ASEAN governments should raise taxes on tobacco products as an effective measure to not only reduce tobacco use and deaths but also increase much needed revenues that could be used in the COVID-19 response. Strengthening tax administration and implementing a Code of Conduct for government employees that limits interactions with the tobacco industry and promotes transparency and accountability will also strengthen government tax policies, they said.

The reports can be accessed through the respective websites of SEATCA and Tobacconomics.


Related Links:

  1. SEATCA Tobacco Tax Index
  2. Tobacconomics Cigarette Tax Score Card
  3. Guidelines on the implementation of WHO FCTC Article 6

Contact Information:
Val Bugnot, Media and Communications Officer, SEATCA

SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control 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.