Speakers of anti-tobacco platforms on Saturday urged the government to increase the VAT (Value Added Tax) on cigarettes and all kind of tobacco products in the next budget for the fiscal 2019-20 to discourage smoking.
They demanded restructuring of the four-level price slab for cigarettes into two levels and simplify the taxation system terming it complicated, old and ineffective. They also demanded the stoppage of giving extra facilities to multinational companies.The anti-tobacco campaigners also urged the government to prohibit the electronic cigarette which is also spreading vastly among young generation including the college and university students.
The speakers made the demand at a pre-budget press conference titled “What tobacco taxation we want” at Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) in the capital on Saturday.
A group of anti-tobacco platforms including Progga, Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA), National Heart Foundation, Dhaka Ahsania Mission, Association for Community Development, Young Power in Social Action (YPSA), Sushasoner Janno Procharavijhan, Bangladesh Institute of Theater Arts and Tamak Birodhi Nari Jote organised the conference in association with Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Mahfuz Kabir, Research Director of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) recommended an 11-point charter of demands including bringing all manufacturers of smoke free tobacco products under Tax net and facilitating tobacco regulations for implementation.
He also placed a good number of proposals for the upcoming budget like restructuring 4-segment price slabs, abolishing the filter and non-filter variation of Bidi, eliminating tariff value system for smoke free tobacco products and imposing 15 percent VAT for all tobacco retail products.
Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) chairman Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said, “Although earnings of people have increased substantially, prices of tobacco products have not increased accordingly. If the price of tobacco products is increased then consumers will feel the pinch which will ultimately help reduce the consumption of tobacco.”“We should increase awareness among people accordingly and should alert youths in their job application that smokers will not be eligible to apply for the jobs. Then our movement will be fruitful,” also said the noted economist adding that they will take the movement against tobacco to far long way.
Dr Nasiruddin Ahmed, Former Chairman of National Board of Revenue (NBR), said that most of the poor people do not care of health and consume the low price cigarettes. “Tough action should be taken against the tobacco smokers and awareness on health ground should be increased,” he also said.
Senior research Fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), Dr Najnin Ahmed also spoke at the programme which was presided over by former DU Vice-Chancellor Professor AAMS Arefin Siddique.