The Armenian minister of health says a 45 per cent price hike in cigarettes will prevent 88,000 early deaths
Armenia plans to increase the price of cigarettes by 45 per cent.
Armenia’s Health Minister Arsen Torosyan wrote on his Facebook page that this tax could prevent 88,000 early deaths, including those who stop smoking and those who do not start.
He did not, however, mention a time period in relation to this indicator.
How has this approach worked abroad?
Torosyan cites research conducted by Harvard University, the University of Washington and the World Bank as proof of the efficacy of this approach to an anti-smoking campaign.
He argues that the increase in cigarette prices will lead to a rise in the country’s income, and not a reduction, as his opponents claim, referring to the experience of other countries, and promised to present further proof.
Torosyan stated in his post that: “Tobacco use has a much more negative effect on the economy of any country than a reduction in income.”
A dispute between the prime minister and the minister of health
Minister Torosyan wrote the message on Facebook after a government meeting where an anti-tobacco campaign was discussed.
At the meeting, there was a dispute between the Minister of Health and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
The minister did not like the fact that, in the bill on changes to the tax code, the excise tax on tobacco products was four times lower than had been previously provided for.
Torosyan said that in general, Armenia should implement a total ban on tobacco use.
The minister’s remarks did not please Nikol Pashinyan:
“We are also moving in this direction, but you want a time machine. You say, ‘let’s do it the right away’, but this will not happen. This path leads to disaster.”
Social media reaction
The dispute between the minister and the prime minister was continued by users on social networks who also divided into two camps. Those who support Arsen Torosyan believe that the Minister cares about the health of the people:
“Arsen Torosyan, do not listen to the prime minister. Do what you must.”
“Your thoughts and steps are valuable. Every citizen feels your goals and your work. We haven’t had such a minister of health for a long time.”
But there is also the opinion that Arsen Torosyan is taking too hard a position:
“No one questions the harm of smoking. However, anti-smoking methods must be such that they do not lead to a hundredfold harm.”
Not just a price increase
The anti-tobacco campaign of the Armenian authorities is not limited to just raising cigarette prices. The need for urgent action is due to the fact that Armenia has the highest number of smokers among European countries.
A study by the World Health Organization says that 51.5 per cent of Armenian men smoke.
The Armenian government previously published a draft bill that would restrict smoking in public places and put it up for public discussion.
Even then, many were outraged by the large fines that violators could face.
The amount of the estimated fines will vary depending on where the action took place:
- 250 thousand drams [about $520] in an elevator, cafe or office;
- 50 thousand drams [about $104] in a car;
- in public transport, such as a taxi: 100 thousand drams [about $208].
According to the bill, it would only be possible to smoke in specially designated places which must be properly equipped.
The new strategy to combat smoking, according to the authors, should reduce the number of smokers by 30-40 per cent.