Spain plans on asking European Union finance ministers to exclude tobacco from the consumer price index so it can raise taxes on cigarettes without fuelling inflation in its anti-smoking drive. But the idea was swiftly rebuffed by a senior official at EU statistics agency Eurostat, which decides what goes in the consumer price index. “The government supports making this proposal to Ecofin. Some people might be sceptical, but not Mr. Rato (Spanish Economy Minister Rodrigo Rato), who has approved it,” Health Minister Celia Villalobos said in Madrid. “Though the process may be long and slow, we will achieve it,” she added. In a country where 34% of the people smoke and 16% of deaths among people over 35 are smoking-related, Spain is seeking to crack down on a practice that is socially acceptable just about anywhere in public and on the rise among teenagers. Villalobos last week proposed a raft of anti-smoking measures including raising the legal age to buy tobacco to 18 from 16, banning some forms of advertising and vending machines, and raising the tax on tobacco. Smoking is also relatively cheap in Spain because of lower taxes. Spanish-French tobacco company Altadis says a pack of Marlboros costs 2.50 euros in Spain compared with an average of 3.20 to 3.40 euros elsewhere in Europe.

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