Taxing vapers

| January 25, 2018

Indonesia has said that it will impose a 57 percent tax on non-tobacco alternatives to traditional tobacco cigarettes from the summer, according to a story in The Jakarta Post.

The announcement has sparked criticism that the government is siding with major tobacco companies at the expense of public health.

Electronic-cigarette cafés have been opening across Indonesia in recent years but the fear is that the new tax could strangle this nascent sector.

Rhomedal Aquino, spokesman for the Association of Indonesian Personal Vaporizers, was said to have told Agence France Presse that whereas his association agreed with using tax to control consumption, a 57 percent duty was too high. It would kill a growing industry.

“It will make us look like a killing machine when we’re not,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hasbullah Thabrany, a health expert and advisor to the National Commission on Tobacco Control, warned that while customs and excise law required that the government set taxes on such products, it was possible that the authorities were using the levy to take sides.

“I do believe that the policy sides with the [tobacco] industry,” he said.

The tobacco lobby in Indonesia is strong. The country’s trade minister Enggartiasto Lukita caused a backlash from anti-smoking groups in November when he suggested tobacco farmers would be hurt by the fledgling industry, and that those turning to e-cigarettes should smoke regular cigarettes instead.

“We should turn vapers into conventional cigarette smokers,” he said at the time.

Indonesia’s customs office said it hoped the tax hike would make e-cigarettes unaffordable for children, while the health ministry said it was not sold on the argument that vaping was safe. “E-cigarettes are just as dangerous and can be even more carcinogenic” than regular cigarettes, said senior ministry official Muhammad Subuh.

“We reject both conventional and electronic cigarettes — it’s better to quit smoking altogether,” he said. “There is no such thing as ‘less dangerous’ when it comes to smoking.”

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Category: Breaking News, Next-generation products, People, Tax, Vapor

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