Brazil Wants Heavy Cigarette Tax
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) - In a new offensive against the tobacco industry, Brazil's government announced it will propose a heavy surtax on cigarette sales and a ban on all advertising and sponsorship of cultural and sports events by the tobacco indust
Health Minster Jose Serra said the goal is to reduce smoking by 40 percent within four years. The new measures will be submitted to Congress next week.
``The ministry starts from the premise that cigarettes are a drug and should be fought as a drug,'' Serra said in announcing the proposed legislation Wednesday.
One bill would ban cigarette ads from television, radio, newspapers, magazines and billboards. Tobacco companies also would be prohibited from sponsoring many events, including an annual jazz festival and the popular Formula One and CART auto races.
In the United States, cigarette advertising is also restricted - including a ban on television ads.
TV ads in Brazil now are allowed late at night and must carry a health warning at the end. But the warnings vary greatly in content, and some are as mild as: ``Avoid smoking in the presence of children.''
The government hasn't set a rate for the surtax, which also would be levied on liquor manufacturers. But Serra said it could generate $81 million a year, which he said would be spent on health research.
The main target of the campaign is teen-agers, he said.
A 30-second TV spot that began airing on Thursday shows a drug dealer in a Brazilian slum, his face concealed with a ski mask, explaining how he gets clients hooked - on cigarettes.
Health Ministry figures show that smoking-related diseases cause a death about every seven minutes in Brazil, a nation of 165 million people.
Opposition parties, which have submitted five bills with varying sanctions against the tobacco industry, applauded the initiative.
Souza Cruz, a major Brazilian tobacco company owned by British conglomerate BAT Industries PLC, declined to comment on the government proposal.
Brazil, an important tobacco grower that for years ignored the anti-tobacco movement abroad, has stepped up efforts to curb smoking in recent years. Smoking now is banned in public buildings and on all domestic and international airplane flights.
Some Brazilian state governments also have filed suit in U.S. courts against American tobacco companies to recover money spent in treating smoking-related diseases. The states of Rio de Janeiro and Goias are seeking at least $5 billion each.