Specific imposition of tax on tobacco products is vital for public health

অনিন্দ্য বাংলা
মঙ্গলবার, মে ১১, ২০২১
  • শেয়ার করুন

Anindabangla Desk : {9 May, 2021} Considering the fatalities caused by tobacco, human rights and research organization VOICE arranged a webinar titled “The necessity of increasing tobacco tax to save public health” prior to budget. Speakers in the webinar demanded specific imposition of tax on all tobacco products to make it unaffordable for the sake of public health.

Honorable planning minister M A Mannan MP was the chief guest in the seminar and respectable economist and the chairman of PKSF, Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad was the chairperson. The webinar was moderated by executive director of VOICE, Ahmed Swapan Madmud.

Parliament members Aroma Dutta, Shirin Akhter MP, Ashim Kumar Ukil MP, Shamim Haider Patwary and Mustafizur Rahman, Lead Policy Advisor of Campaign for Tobacco free Kids were the special guests.

The key note presentation was done by Zayed Siddiki, the project coordinator of VOICE. The presentation focused on the current complicated tobacco tax structure of Bangladesh where different amount of tax is imposed on different tiers.

The fact that, the prices of tobacco products did not increase with the per capita income raise of people was attributed to the failure of tobacco tax increase attempt in the past

According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics per capita income of people in Bangladesh grew by 25.4 percent in 2017-2018 fiscal year compared to 2015-16. But the prices of tobacco products remained almost the same or increase insignificantly.

Specially the prices of lower tier cigarettes have remained cheap and affordable which is why tobacco consumption among poor people did not decrease.

Bangladesh is one of the largest tobacco consuming countries in the world with 35.3 percent of her grown-up population are addicted to tobacco. Because of the cheaper rate of bidi, cigarette and other tobacco products it remains extremely challenging to contain the fatality rate.

However, controlling the prices of tobacco by imposing tax has proved to be an effective way to reduce tobacco consumption. This is why a number of suggestions to reform tax structure was raised in the webinar-

  • to reform the system where 57 per cent tax is imposed on lower tier cigarette and 65 percent tax on the rest by introducing equal amount of tax on all tiers
  • It suggested to introduce a tiered specific excise with uniform tax burden where excise share will be 65 per cent of final retail price across all cigarette brands.
  • In addition to that 15 per cent VAT and 1 per cent health development surcharge will be applied to the final retail price.
  • In case of non-filter bidi specific tax should be 45 per cent of the retail price
  • In case of smokeless tobacco (Jarda,Gul) specific tax would be 66 per cent of the final retail price.

If this happens it will abstain 8 lakh young people to start smoking and encourage 11 lakh grown-ups to give up the habit. Above all, it would enable us to stop untimely death of 3 lakh 90 thousand current smoker. It will also save lives of 4 lakh youngster. They can be turned into human resources in our country.

Nadira Kiran, news editor of ATN Bangla had been fighting against tobacco for a long time. She said, “The health expenses caused by tobacco related disease is far higher than the amount of revenue received from tobacco industry every year. Tobacco is bringing us no good. Specially during this pandemic when organizations like World Health Organization (WHO) said that smokers are at higher risk of covid-19 infection, government must impose specific tax on tobacco products to make it unaffordable to general people”.

Parliament Member barrister Shamim Haider Patwary said, “There is no other country in the world that has multi-tiered tax structure imposed on tobacco like it is in Bangladesh. In fact, this is a fundamental reason we cannot benefit from tax increase in our country. Tobacco tax increase have never reduced revenue in any country. This is why we must impose specific tax on tobacco products.  Then we will be able to earn additional revenue which can be used to rehabilitate the tobacco consumers, farmers, bidi labors and tobacco business people”.

Shirin Akhter MP said, “We must take actions against the things that are harmful. Tobacco is harmful for everyone. We have to raise our voice to make parliament tobacco free”.

She thinks local leader, political leaders in district, sub-districts should take a strong stance against tobacco.

“Political parties have to be vocal about it and our government has to make a road map on tobacco tax policy” she said.

Planning Minister M A Mannan applauded the organizers for arranging the webinar. He made his position clear against tobacco and was optimistic about the imposition of specific tax on tobacco products for the sake of public health. He asked everyone to be focused on the issue.

“There is no debate on how injurious tobacco is to our health. Since our honourable prime minister is already committed to the cause, this is the best time when we can reform the tobacco tax structure” he said.

Economist Kazi Khaliquzzaman suggested imposing 1 perpect additional surgcharge to create awareness against tobacco.

“Our prime minister has declareds to make our country tobacco free by 2040. But she cannot do everything alone. This is why orienting people who can work on this is important” he said.

Prominent Journalist & Representative, Reporters San Frontiers (RSF) Saleem Samad, Editor in Chief, TV Today Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, Executive Director, PROGGA ABM Zubair, Country Coordinator, Road Safety Program, Global Health Advocacy Incubator Dr Shariful Alam, were present in the webinar.