So That Their Past Does Not Become Our Present

The fierce war between the American tobacco companies and the US government is now more intense than ever, after the two signed an agreement which abides the former to pay $5.365 billion over 25 years to cover the lawsuits of smoking patients from all different states, in addition to financing the extensive anti-smoking campaigns inside America, and lowering the rates of teenage smoking by 30% in 5 years or 60% in 10 years. If these rates aren’t met, the tobacco companies will be obligated to pay fines up to $80 million annually for every 1% shortage from the assigned rate for that year.


After being restricted in America, the tobacco companies started seeking quick solutions to cover their losses in America.


One of these solutions was finding new markets in third world countries, which is a policy that started years ago as a precaution from the current situation. A quick look at the tobacco sales around the world between 1990 – 1995 shows a 5.4% decline inside the US, 3.11% in Latin America, 7.1% in Western Europe, while it scored an 8.8% increase in Asia.


The highest increase in the world was 7.17% in the Middle East, and the tobacco companies are hoping for a higher increase in the upcoming years.


This year alone, the tobacco companies had to raise the prices of tobacco twice, first in March 1997 by 6% and the second time was in September 2, 1997 by 6.7%.


The increase in sales is expected to give the equivalent of $6.1 billion in revenues to the tobacco companies during the next 12 months. Certainly, the revenues will help in covering some items in the agreement signed with the US government.


In European countries, as well as America, high taxes are issued on smoking. For examples, the price of cigarettes in the US is twice as much as it is in Saudi Arabia, and in England it is 4 times as much.


A big portion of taxes is spent on fighting smoking and treating smokers and helping them quit, as well as protecting teenagers from getting addicted to it.


Some countries in our area have indeed started taking actions in raising taxes on smoking, as a means to fight smoking, but it is merely a method that can only be successful if the goal is clear, which should be the gradual extraction of this habit from society on the long run. In order to achieve that, it is important to use the tax revenues from smoking in developing programs to fight it and create standards to evaluate, modify and develop these programs. That money spent will pay off huge amounts in the long run.


It is wrong when some people think that the reason behind raising the taxes on smoking products is to penalize the smoker or find a source of national income. The goal is to help the smoker quit and to finance programs which lead to that, and to protect the youth and teenagers from falling victims to smoking and come up with well-developed and long-range policies to eliminate this disease from our societies.


It is not an easy task, but just like America raised a motto saying “Soon Smoking Will Be A thing From the Past”, we also should have a goal and a motto, to prevent the coming of the day when their past which they proudly eliminated becomes our present which we lament.



OKAZ Newspaper – Tuesday 8 First Jumada 1418 AH falling on 9 September 1997 AD