“The establishment of a Health Promotion Trust Fund under the existing Tobacco Control Legislation
2016 is being progressed by the government. Funds that will be generated and deposited into this
trust fund will consist mainly of fees that will be charged on tobacco products being sold at the retail
and wholesale levels. Licensing fees will also be collected every year by the NDoH from the tobacco
companies, when they renew their licenses. Revenue from registration of tobacco products by
tobacco companies will also be deposited into the fund.”
The text above is from the Papua New Guinea National Health Plan 2021-2030, the latest health plan by the PNG government.
The question I have is, Is it ethical to fund health promotion programs with funds generated from taxing cigarette companies?
I agree that cigarette companies should be taxed, heavily even. Cigarette companies today focus on marketing their products in low-middle-come and low-income countries, where health systems and health laws are weak or poorly implemented. The prevalence of chronic lung diseases and lung cancers, two diseases directly related to cigarette smoking, are also very high in countries mentioned previously.
I think the structure proposed in the PNG National Health Plan to create a Health Promotion Trust Fund, funded by taxing cigarette products is unethical. This structure has the potential to create real or perceived conflict of interest between the PNG National Health Department and Cigarette companies in PNG. My view is that tax/monies from cigarette related products should go into the general tax revenue so that there is no direct financial link between PNG National Department of Health and Cigarette companies in PNG.
Health promotion in PNG programs and activities in PNG is fragmented, uncoordinated and operates on ad hoc basis. We need long term sustained programs to change/influence public behavior, promote and protect health. This health priority should be funded by the National Government as a national priority with protected funding though the national budget. Not through direct tax from cigarette companies where the trust fund is accessed by the PNG National Health Department. The proposed structure is unethical, short sighted and unsustainable. It clearly demonstrates that the PNG Government has not yet accepted Health Promotion as a KEY PILLAR of improving health in PNG.