Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What now? Lived happily ever after?








What now? Lived happily ever after?

Cigarette prices have seen unprecedented and  dramatic price increase in recent times. Hoarding a stock of  cigarettes would have been the best investment in last month ; it would have been the  investment with best returns in recent times with about 40% returns in couple of months.
Now SL would probably be the country with highest Cigarette prices in real terms. UK has one of the highest Cigarettes prices in the world.  Compared to UK (1800 per pack) our price (1000 Rs) when  perchasing power parity , per capita income is factored in , is 41500/10600 x1000=  Rs 3900. That’s more than twice the real term price of Cigarettes in UK . on the other end of the extreme in Nigeria, a pack is 150 Rs (300 naira ), period. In Pakistan a country in the region a pack is , yes original John Player gold leaf is just 182 rupees ,that’s less than the cost of  4 Cigarettes  here. And in India on the other side of Palk Strait the prices are about half of our prices, the gold flake that I smoked when I was in India is 250 Indian Rupees now.
I made a thorough  search but couldn’t find a single country that has higher price for Cigarettes s compared to Srilanka in real terms, that’s after per capita income is taken into the calculation.
So assuming my search is complete and didn’t miss  some freak country that has higher Cigarettes  prices let us see the  possible results of this sharp price hike that probably has brought us to the no 1 spot in at least one aspect , Cigarettes prices , if we do not already have that dubious  honor in  suicide rate in the world. No just checked, South Korea and Guyana are above us, we are third with one decimal point below South Korea.
Going back to the effects and results of this price hike, what would be the likely outcomes of this move?
There will be sharp reduction in smoking – being an ex smoker I don’t think that will happen .  Whilst smokers  who can afford will continue to smoke the same brand that they are used to the smokers who can ill afford their regular brand will go one brand down to a brand that will cost them equal to their previous brand prior to  the price hike. Since there are many substitute products as they say in economics there is no compulsion to give up smoking here. I was told by a shop keeper that a gentleman who used to buy  five gold Cigarettes on the way home after work now buys two gold leafs and five beedis, probably more puffs , same dose of nicotine and more carbon too.
Cigarette making becoming a cottage industry- there is a distinct possibility for this upshot. Imagine you can buy the raw material for a Cigarette for 5 Rs, and wrap a even callous Cigarette with a Cigarette maker and sell it for 25 Rs. You just sell 100 Cigarettes among your neighbors or friends you make 2000 Rs , a days wage in half an hour,  especially in rural areas.
Less people will take up smoking because the prices are higher-  I don’t think because youth  who want to experiment, high price would not be a factor to discourage , but teaching at the schools of the consequences of smoking at least two periods a week before children take up smoking will have a much stronger effect on children to keep away from smoking
Contraband Cigarettes smuggling- this is a big business everywhere. It has been estimated that in  Europe alone  9 Billion Euros worth of contraband Cigarettes have been imported by smugglers in 2014 alone. And also it has been found that  many  fundamentalist  groups use Cigarettes smuggling to raise funds for their activities. But I am not sure the price difference on the either side of the Palk Strait divide , double the price , would  be sufficient to lure smugglers into contraband Cigarettes. However if Pakistan  was close like India to us the price difference would surely be a tailor made situation for smuggling.
So is this extreme price hike would be helpful in curbing smoking ? not much . but it will be most useful in raising revenues for the government at the cost of  pushing down people into poor quality substitutes. I recently, about two years back, quit smoking by using nicotine patches . Since then I have helped three friends quit smoking by introducing them to patches. But a set of patches is about 5000 Rs and also they are not available in Srilanka. Many friends, having seen my achievement ask me where to buy the patches.
So if government is genuinely interested in preventing people from smoking what they should do is to make available nicotine patches at reasonable price and also introduce this as a prevention care at village level, using so many government servants doing nothing in the villages to visit smokers at home and work places ; 4.5 field officials in each GS division to achieve this.

2 comments:

  1. a very nice analysis of the governing presidents "anti cigarette" policy. what we can expect in a country were plentiful of university graduates in any government office but none of the last 4 consecutive presidents had proper university education.

    හිටංගේ අරක්කු / සිගරුට් / ඇස්බැස්ටෝස් / රවුන්ඩප් පොලිසි වල යහපත් ප්‍රවනතා,
    - තමිල්නාඩු - ලංකා ධීවරයන්ට වාද බේද අල්ලල දාල ත්‍රයිවින් හොරබඩු බිස්නස් එකකක් පටාන් ගත්තෑකි, එතකොට මූදේ මාළු හොඳින් බෝවෙලා අස්වැන්න වැඩි වුනාම නිශ්පාදන මිළ අඩුවෙලා මාළු මිළත් බහීවි, එතකොට මිනිස්සුන්ට හොඳ සී ප්‍රෝටීන් අඩු මිළට ලැබේවි. එතනින් ගියාම තමිල්නාඩු ලංකා සමඟිය නිසා දෙමළ බෙඳීමේ ව්‍යාපාරයට එහෙන් ලැබෙන සහය අඩපන වේවි, මිනිස්සුන්ට අරක්කු / සිඟරුට් වගේ දුක තුනී කරගන්න ගන්න දේවල් හොයාගන්න අමාරු නිසා වගේ ලංකාවට පහුගිය කාලේ අහිමිවෙච්ච කප් එක සියදිවිනසා ගැනීමේ කප් එක ආයේ උස්සන්න ලැබේවි. මේ වගේ එක ගලෙන් කුරුල්ලෝ ගොඩක් මරන්න පුළුවන් පොලිසි හදන්න පුළුවන් බටහිර චින්තන වලින් හිස අවුල් නොකරගත්ත පියෝ බුද්ධිමතන්ට පමණයි, මේ සඳහා හිටං එතුමා සෞඛ්‍ය ඇමති කාලේ එතුමාට කරුණු පහදා දුන් වෛද්‍ය සංගමයටත් තුති නොකරම බෑ.

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 මා ශ්‍රී ලංකා නාවික නෞකා ශක්ති නැවේ අණදෙන නිලධාරියාව සිටියදී ඉන්දියාව 1997 වර්ෂයේ බෙංගාල බොක්කේ තදාසන්න රාජ්‍යයන් ගේ නාවික හමුදාවන්ග...