Taipei, March 19 (CNA) Taiwan is considering an increase in its tobacco tax and health surcharge on cigarettes, as part of its efforts to reduce the smoking population in the country, government officials said Tuesday.
Chiou Shu-ti, director-general of the Department of Health's Bureau of Health Promotion, said the bureau hopes to raise the health surcharge on cigarettes from the current NT$20 (US$0.67) per pack to NT$40 by the end of the year.
Data has shown that a price increase of NT$10 per pack will reduce the smoking rate in the country by an average 8 percent, Chiou said at a press conference. The price increase is most effective among teenagers and disadvantaged groups, she added.
Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao, who called the press conference, said he had proposed an amendment to the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act last year to gradually increase the health surcharge on cigarettes to NT$120 per pack over 10 years.
Turning to the tobacco tax, Wu Tzu-hsin, director-general of the Taxation Agency, said at the press conference it has not been raised in the past 10 years and still stands at NT$11.8 per pack.
Members of the Taipei-based John Tung Foundation, an anti-smoking group, suggested that the government increase the tobacco tax to NT$30 per pack -- about 60 percent of the average retail price.
The foundation said the price of cigarettes is low compared with countries like New Zealand, which is planning to increase the price to 20 New Zealand dollars (NT$490) per pack in 2016 in its bid to become smoke-free by 2025.
Currently a pack of cigarettes in Taiwan sells for about NT$85, compared with NT$392 in New Zealand.
(By Chen Hsun-hsieh and Ann Chen)