• Oxford Economics rejects bias claims over tobacco studies

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    Hong Kong: London-based Oxford Economics on Tuesday again rejected claims that its tobacco trade reports were flawed given funding from industry giant Philip Morris.

    With the upcoming release later this year of the “Asia-16 Illicit Tobacco Indicator 2014” and given the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance’s (Seatca) criticism of last year’s “Asia-14” report, Oxford Economics’ Oliver Salmon said the think tank had never tried to hide the fact about who was paying for the research.

    “But we’ve always maintained full academic control at the end of the day. The figures in the report have our name on it, no one else is. It’s our reputation, our credibility with which this figures go out into the public,” said Salmon, who is senior economist for Asia.

    Salmon claimed that Oxford Economics had tried to actively engage Seatca but failed to get any response. Seatca representatives were not immediately available for comment.

    “Clearly, we both agree that illicit trade is an issue in the Asian region, but specifically in the Philippines, and we want to collaborate where possible … We are happy to be open, we are happy to debate the subject with people who disagree with us,” he said.

    “We welcome this kind of conversation, and we hope we can continue to have that debate with Seatca going forward.”

    Oxford Economics’ “Asia-16 Illicit Tobacco Indicator 2014” is set for public release in the fourth quarter of 2015.

    An extract from the upcoming report pointed out that more untaxed cigarettes were smoked in the Philippines last year, subsequently increasing foregone government revenues.

    Data from the Philippine market report put the volume of 2014 illicit cigarette consumption at 19.9 billion sticks, up 4.1 percent from the previous year.

    Illicit consumption cost the government an estimated P22.5 billion in lost excise and value-added tax revenues, the report noted.

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