Impose cigarette tax to offset smokers' medical bills

It is a fact that smokers expose themselves to a much higher risk of lung cancer than non-smokers (Healthcare subsidies should be given without prejudice, by Dr Michael Loh Toon Seng; July 12).

Smoking also causes a host of other health hazards, including heart problems.

This means smokers have a much higher chance of being hospitalised, and their treatment may cost much more.

Smokers should be penalised in their treatment bills, but it is difficult to determine by how much. It would be easier to implement a special tax on cigarettes.

If 8 per cent of three million people in Singapore smoke, that would mean 240,000 smokers. If each of them smokes one packet per week, this would make 12.4 million packets a year.

If a $3 tax is imposed on each packet of cigarettes, this would bring in about $37 million. This sum can be used to subsidise MediShield Life premiums.

This would be more equitable, as under the current MediShield Life structure, smokers are not charged extra premium, resulting in non-smokers subsidising smokers.

Increasing the price of cigarettes may also induce smokers to reduce their smoking or give it up altogether.

This would result in fewer people being hospitalised for smoking-related ailments. We can also have a cleaner Singapore.

Tan Yang Ching