Benefits given to tobacco industry

WHO FCTC Article 5.3 guideline recommendation 7.3 states that “Parties should not provide any preferential tax exemption to the tobacco industry.”[1] Hence, the government shall not give privileges, incentives, exemptions or benefits to the tobacco industry. Benefits to the tobacco industry can be in various forms as elaborated below:

All countries in ASEAN except Brunei and Singapore still permit duty-free tobacco products allowance for international travelers coming to ASEAN. In Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam, 200 sticks of cigarettes and/or equivalent tobacco products are allowed, while 400 sticks of cigarettes and/or equivalent tobacco products are still allowed in both Myanmar and Philippines.[2]


The governments of Cambodia and Vietnam have an existing bilateral agreement on duty-free exemptions for dried tobacco leaves signed in October 2016. Under the agreement, Cambodian tobacco producers could apply for licenses to export duty-free dried tobacco leaves (up to 3,000 tons per year) to Vietnam.[3],[4] Cambodia exported more than 1,000 tons of dry tobacco leaves to Vietnam in 2017, valued at more than USD 2 million. The figure marked a 24 % increase from 2016, the Ministry of Commerce said.[5]


Following the cancellation of the tobacco tax tier simplification in 2018, the Director General of Custom, Ministry of Finance voluntarily defended the excise tax cancellation as a way to sustain the tobacco industry’s survival. One official from Coordinating Minister for Economics also blamed tax increases as being responsible for the growth of the tobacco industry.     

Lao PDR:

The 25-year (2001-2026) Investment License Agreement (ILA) between the government and Imperial Tobacco Group is still in place. This incentivizes the company that controls 93% of the cigarette market with caps on excise taxes on its products that should have been collected to help boost the economy and finance programs through the Lao Tobacco Control Fund.[6]


The Myanmar government is open and welcoming to foreign investment including BAT and JTI, and most recently to Burma Tobacco Trading Co. for cigar production and tobacco growing.

The Union Tax Law of 2019 gave a tax exemption to tobacco industries for cheroots, cigars and raw tobacco if their annual product cost does not exceed MMK 20 million (kyats).


Under the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), tobacco leaf and other tobacco related additives imported to the Philippines enjoy zero import duties.


According to Section 165 of Excise Act in 2017, tax exemption is given to native tobacco leaves up to 1 kilogram, with no industrialized purposes.[9]

[1] Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on the protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry,, page 8.
[2] Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance. (2019). SEATCA Tobacco Tax Index: Implementation of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 6 in ASEAN Countries, 2019. Bangkok. Thailand.
[3] Manet S. 4 January 2017, Export licenses for Vietnam, Khmer Times,
[4] Sokhorn C. 22 May 2017, Tobacco deal leaves farmers out, The Phnom Penh Post,  
[5] Sokhorn C. 6 September 2018, Tobacco worth over $2M exported to VN last year, The Phnom Penh Post,
[6] Lao PDR – country summary, Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2019.
[7] Myanmar – country summary, Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2019. 
[8] Philippines – country summary, Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2019.
[9] Matichon Online, 7 September 2017, New taxation rate shall be announced next week, with native tobacco leaves included, Matichon Online, [Thai document]