Camapigners for hiking tax, raising prices of tobacco products

Anti-Tobacco organisations have urged the authorities concerned to raise taxes and prices of tobacco in the next national budget to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.


The groups including PROGGA, Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA), ACD, YPSA, Dhaka Ahsania Mission, National Heart Foundation, TABINAJ, and BITA presented their proposals to the media on Sunday, said a press release.


Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, eminent economist and the Convener of National Anti-Tobacco Platform, said, “The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic once again showed how important the control of the use of tobacco products is. A huge portion of the population, victims of direct or indirect tobacco use, is currently at grave risk of severe coronavirus infection.”


In order to recover from the shock of COVID-19 pandemic and also to build a healthy society in the future, to rebuild the economy and ensure development, it is essential to get accustomed to a tobacco-free environment, he said.


This is why my proposal is to increase the tobacco prices and taxes to bring it out of the purchasing capacity of the youth and the poor in the upcoming 2020-21 national budget, he added.


Dr Naznin Ahmed, economist and Senior Research Fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), said “The number of cigarette price tiers be reduced from four to two because too many price slabs create the scope of switching between slabs and brands, thus weakening the taxation and price hike from having its intended effect.”


Adopting and implementing a simplified and strong tobacco tax policy is urgent to increase revenue stream from this sector and reducing the use of tobacco to the desired level, she said.


Dr Mahfuz Kabir Research Director of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) said, “A portion of supplementary duty as specific tax could be imposed. In addition to other tax and price measures, a 3 percent surcharge on retail prices of all tobacco products should be imposed.”


“If these proposals are implemented, it would raise additional revenues up to Tk 10,000 crores for the government. Also, an additional Tk 1,000 crore would come from the 3 percent surcharge if imposed. The additional revenues generated may help the govt. to recover losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic, to bear coronavirus related medical expenses and implementation of stimulus packages.” he said.


Dr AAMS Arefin Siddique, former Vice Chancellor of Dhaka Univesity, said, “Bangladesh, right now, is a country of the youth. The future prosperity of development depends on the youth. To protect the youth from the detrimental effect of tobacco, the prices and taxes of cigarettes and other tobacco products should be increased to push it beyond the purchasing capacity of the youth. Awareness campaign should be conducted to make the youth and students conscious on the harmful effects of tobacco.”


They also came up with some demands including to introduce specific taxes, a two-tier pricing system in cigarettes, impose a 3 percent surcharge on retail prices of tobacco products and implement proposed price and tax hike.


According to World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco helps the spread of coronavirus infection and so, the Organization discouraged the use of it. Smoking is a known risk factor for many respiratory infections and increases the severity of respiratory diseases.


A review of studies by public health experts convened by WHO has found that smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19, compared to non-smokers. Taking this warning into account, 40 million people of Bangladesh, both active tobacco users and victims of secondhand smoke, are currently at grave risk of severe coronavirus infection.


Source: United News of Bangladesh