The sin tax increase for tobacco products was not enough to put the youth off smoking, the National Council Against Smoking said yesterday.

Delivering the 2014 Budget, Pravin Gordhan had earlier in the day announced that excise duties on a pack of 20 cigarettes would rise by 68 cents.

“This modest hike means that the Treasury has once again spurned the opportunity to reduce smoking among youth, save lives and generate revenue,” the council’s executive director, Yussuf Saloojee, said in a statement.

According to the council, had the increase been R1.20 a pack almost 620 million fewer cigarettes would have been smoked in the next year. This would have generated government revenue of about R500 million, he said.

“The Treasury’s priorities favour business above health, based on the naive assumption that containing cigarette excise tax will contain the illicit trade in cigarettes,” he said.

The Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa said it acknowledged the importance of excise duties on tobacco as an extremely valuable source of income for the fiscus.

Chief executive Francois van der Merwe said in a statement: “We are grateful to the Treasury for maintaining the 52 percent tax incidence on tobacco products.” – Sapa