B50bn economic loss from smoking

Death and disease caused by smoking costs the country over 50 billion baht each year, according to the Tobacco Control Research and Knowledge Management Centre.

EPA Photo

Kanitta Bundhamcharoen, of the International Health Policy Programme Thailand, said on Tuesday the statistics were clear - the economic loss as a result of premature death from smoking each year was around 40.5 billion baht - comprising medical expenses and lost productivity.

Smokers have an average life expectancy around 12 years less than non-smokers, she said.

Other costs included about 10.1 billion baht for direct medication, 1.06 billion baht for indirect medication, 370 million baht loss as a result of smokers being absent from work for illness, and a 147 million baht loss as a result of people off work caring for sick smokers who were absent from work.

This all added up to a total estimated economic loss of 52.18 billion baht a year, or 0.5% of the country's GDP.

She said the government, sick smokers and second-hand smokers have to shoulder higher costs and economic loss as a result.

The programme  is operated by the Public Health MInistry.

Dr Prakit Vathesatogkit, secretary-general of Action on Smoking and Health-Thailand (ASH), said there were a total of 50,710 deaths from smoking related diseases in Thailand in 2009, up from 45,136 in 2003.

It was projected this figure would increase to around 80,000 a year, based on smoking trends and the age of smokers.

Globally, around 5.4 million smokers and 600,000 second-hand smokers die from smoking related diseases each year, he said. The number of smoker deaths is likely to increase to eight million in 2030.

He said ASH  suggested the government increase tax on tobacco, not just cigarettes, as statistics showed that 46.5% of deaths were people who rolled their own tobacco. The government currently waives the tax on domestic tobacco leaf to avoid hurting farmers, but this tax structure should be changed by taxing tobacco business operators, he suggested.

In Singapore, health advocates are lobbying the meeting of the 16th round of the negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), due to continue until March 16, to acknowledge tobacco products are harmful and cause disease and death and should not be included in a free trade agreement.

There are an estimated 125 million tobacco smokers in the Asean region, where tobacco related deaths are reported to be the top killer. 

Of the 11 countries negotiating this new free trade agreement, four are from the Asean region - Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Dr Mary Assunta, senior policy adviser of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), said tobacco products should be strictly regulated. The TPPA should not give the tobacco industry opportunities to increase  business, or to sue governments at the expense of people's lives.

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