WHO Holds Closed Door Cigarette Tax Meeting

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The World Health Organization (WHO) barred reporters and the public from attending a meeting this week on its proposed international tobacco tax, Newsmax reports:

The World Health Organization — the U.N.’s public health policy arm — kicked the public and the media out of a discussion of a proposed international tobacco tax during its biennial tobacco control meeting.

The WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which is meeting this week in the South Korean capital of Seoul, began on a high note. The convention’s member countries on Monday ratified an agreement to fight smuggled and pirated tobacco products.

That goodwill was quickly destroyed when delegates of the member countries of the conference stripped the media of the ability to cover the meeting and escorted public onlookers from the premises. The decision to meet behind closed doors occurred when a discussion began about efforts to decrease tobacco use by increasing the price of tobacco products.

As the session began, the session’s chairwoman expressed concern that there was a "large presence" of tobacco growers and industry representatives in the public gallery.

The organization is floating two possible taxes on tobacco products in participating countries: a flat excise tax of up to 70 percent or a tiered-tax of up to five cents per pack in participating first-world countries, according to a previous report by the Washington Free Beacon.

The WHO argues the taxes will reduce tobacco consumption and bring more than $5 billion in funds for world health efforts.

"The increase of the price of tobacco by national authorities through higher excise taxes is the single most effective way to encourage tobacco users to quit and prevent children from starting to smoke. In addition, it increases the revenue of governments without increasing illicit trade of tobacco," WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic previously told the Free Beacon.

However, free-market tax policy analysts and the tobacco industry say such taxes would hit the poor hardest and lead to an expansion of black market and counterfeit cigarette sales. These activities already earn criminal organizations billions of dollars annually.

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