Smoking too affordable in Portugal

BEING a smoker in Portugal is not particularly expensive and, surprisingly, unlike in most other European countries, cigarettes here are getting cheaper all the time. Smoking is more affordable now (2003 data) than it was 10 years ago, says a new report published by the European Commission entitled ‘Tobacco and Health in the European Union – Past, Present and Future’.

In Portugal, a packet of cigarettes from the most popular brand costs 2.10 euros (2003 data) and the report concludes that, among the European Union’s 15 member countries, cigarettes are only cheaper in Spain and Italy. However, the price of cigarettes in Portugal is now slightly above the majority of the 10 new EU members, with the exception of Malta and Cyprus.

“Cigarettes in Europe are still too accessibly priced for the majority of the population,” says the report that was released at the end of last year. A smoker needs to work 30 to 40 minutes to buy a packet of Marlboro in the UK and Ireland where the habit is quite expensive. However, in the majority of countries in the European Union, the average is a lot lower. Often just 18 to 25 minutes of work is required to purchase a packet and, in Sweden and Luxembourg, only 12 minutes.

The overall trend shows that, when cigarette prices are compared, the habit is becoming more expensive, even if the Commission feel cigarettes are still not dear enough. When comparing the prices of the year 1990 with the year 2000, a EU citizen will, on average, have to work 2.6 minutes more than 10 years ago in order to pay for a packet of cigarettes.

But Portugal bucks this trend, together with Denmark and Sweden, where it was proven that tobacco is comparatively cheaper now than it was a decade ago.

The data also shows that Portugal is one of the European countries with the highest increase in deaths due to lung cancer among men between the ages of 35 and 54 during the 1990s.

The European Commission believes that “give up smoking” clinics, helplines, trained medical staff and support programmes are not enough to reduce the number of people addicted to smoking in Portugal. “An increase in the price of cigarettes would be a better incentive for giving up and, therefore, more tax should be applied on tobacco,” summarises the report.