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– claims tax increases will only amplify illicit trade By Jeanna Pearson A key stakeholder in the tobacco trade, Demerara Tobacco, claims that the company has been excluded from the consultation process for the drafting of the new tobacco legislation, which is expected to be tabled early next year.Maurlaine Argyle-KirtonIn an interview with Kaieteur News, Managing Director Maurlaine Argyle-Kirton said it was disturbing that the company was not included in the consultation sessions.“Unfortunately and disturbingly, Demerara Tobacco has not been consulted despite many consultations on the Bill over the years,” she stated, stressing that the company has not laid eyes on its content as yet.She asserted that despite many attempts to have engagement with the Public Health Ministry, the company did not gain a single meeting. She questioned why legislation that is so important to Guyana’s economy and public health, should be managed so “confidentially.”The last time the company tried to gain an audience with the minister was last month, she said.The tobacco legislation is intended to protect present and future generations from the “devastating harms” of tobacco use, exposure to tobacco smoke,Jerseys NFL Wholesale, and specifically to prevent tobacco use among youths. It would also seek to ensure that the public is protected from the commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry, while preventing the illicit trade in tobacco products.The illicit trade, Argyle-Kirton however suggested, would only increase if there is a mount in tobacco taxation in Guyana. She said Suriname is a bona fide example of a rise in the illicit trade through the movement of increased taxation.“They woke up one morning to increase the taxes, driven by PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) to raise it by 75% of the retail price, and today illicit trade is 40% and growing,NFL Jerseys Outlet,” she stated.PAHO, on the other hand, in a statement had argued that the tobacco industry and criminal groups are among those who profit from this illegal trade, and thus urged its member countries to ratify the Protocol to Eliminate the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.The Protocol would help to smother this trade through a range of measures relating to the tobacco supply chain, including the licencing of imports, exports and manufacture of tobacco products; the establishment of tracking and tracing systems; and the imposition of penal sanctions on those responsible for illicit trade. It would also criminalize illicit manufacturing and cross-border smuggling of tobacco products.Eduardo Casta?edaPAHO stated that although the tobacco industry publicly shows itself as a partner in the fight against illicit tobacco, the industry’s underground behaviour revealed something else.PAHO indicated that internal documents released as a result of court cases demonstrate that the industry has actively encouraged illicit trade internationally, working? to block execution of tobacco control measures such as tax increases by arguing that these will fuel the illicit trade.Argyle-Kirton however stated that the government needs to understand how to manage the issue, considering both its revenue and the public’s health.Corporate Affairs Director of British American Tobacco Caribbean and Central America Eduardo Casta?eda posited that it is important that Guyana have a regulation that is balanced and enforceable with its resources available.“Why have regulations when you can’t enforce them?” he asked.He stated that any increase in cigarette taxation be transferred into pricing for the consumers, and if pricing is raised then smoking will inevitably swell out of control.“The consumer will continue to look for what he/she considers is a cheap brand and a cheap brand is more than likely smuggled. Once that starts to happen we would have a whole new dimension in the economy. And the government loses revenue from legitimate companies because everything goes underground,” he said, adding that the situation does not appear to bode well for the government.He explained there was a raise in tobacco taxation in Panama and the country suffered a boom in the illicit trade.“The increase caused 75% of the Panamanian market to have smuggled tobacco,” he said, reiterating that the domino effect of the underground trade does not reduce consumption.Citing that Brazil has a 35% increase in its illicit trade because of the growing taxation, Casta?eda alleged that all of the countries with increased taxation were targeted by different organizations, like PAHO, to increase excises.Regional Advisor on Tobacco Control at PAHO, Dr Adrianna Blanco had indicated that the government needs to increase taxes on tobacco.“There is a need to increase taxes on tobacco. It makes tobacco more expensive and less accessible for children while providing revenue for the country,” she in