13 Nov 2003

WHO official concerned about Tonga tobacco pricing

4:34 pm on 13 November 2003

A medical officer for tobacco control in the Pacific region is concerned that a low tobacco prices in Tonga may increase the number of smokers.

Dr Maximilian De Courten of the World Health Organisation says the new tobacco factory in Tonga is selling its cigarettes 40-percent cheaper than its competitor.

He says he's concerned because the price of tobacco is linked to encouraging people to picking up smoking.

"If that company is basically subsidising or dumping tobacco onto the Tongan population, we have to expect that they soon will see increased smoking rates in Tonga and that has long term consequences."

Dr De Courten says the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control doesn't specify prices of products, but the Tobacco Act does enforce a minimum set amount of tax the company must pay.

He says the convention doesn't outlaw the production of tobacco, but regulates advertising and marketing of tobacco products.