The proposed budget for 2019-20 fiscal year has favoured tobacco companies through leaving cigarette tax rates and keeping price slabs untouched.
The finance minister has said prices of 52 tobacco products could be hiked to discourage smoking.‘There is a directive of Prime Minister for creating a tobacco-free nation by adopting a strong tobacco taxation policy. Unfortunately, the proposed budget of the fiscal 2019-20 does not reflect the directive of the premier and frustrates the anti-tobacco activists, said the anti-tobacco platforms PROGGA and ATMA (Anti Tobacco Media Alliance) in a joint written statement in its budget reaction on Friday.
The proposed budged place in the parliament on Thursday said the elimination of export duty of unprocessed tobacco and the retention of zero percent export duty on processed tobacco product. ‘This will encourage the multinational tobacco companies to use the land of Bangladesh to cultivate tobacco more which will threaten the food security of the country. So, this move will ultimately work as an incentive to produce tobacco and tobacco products in Bangladesh,’ the statement says.
Mentioning that the proposed budget has increased the price of low-tier cigarettes by 20 paisa per stick, it said the per capita income has increased by 11.32 percent and 72 percent of all cigarette smokers are users of low-tier cigarettes.
In the statement, the two anti-tobacco platforms also expressed their fear by saying that if the proposed budget is implemented, it will reduce the real price of low-tier cigarettes and increase its use. It further said the proposed budget offers the cigarette manufacturing companies an opportunity to increase their profit by a staggering up to 31 percent.
Mentioning that the proposed budget has increased the price of low-tier cigarettes by Tk 2 per 10 sticks kept the 55 percent supplementary duty untouched, the duo platforms said the price of per stick in this tier will increase by only 20 paisa which is undoubtedly ‘negligible’.
Expressing their frustration for not to increase tobacco tax, in the statement they said the proposed budget, again, has left the 65 percent supplementary duty on medium, high and premium tier cigarettes untouched and set the price of 10 sticks of the above-mentioned tiers at Tk 63, 93 and 123 respectively. Such move of not increasing tobacco tax will allow the tobacco companies to make their profit to an extent of 31 percent, the two platforms fears.In the statement, the two platforms said that this budget hands multinational tobacco companies unprecedented opportunity to enrich their coffers. Tobacco control is not possible by any measure if we let the tobacco companies increase their profit with such ignorant government move,” the statement claimed.
The proposed budget increases the price of 25 sticks of non-filtered bidi by only Tk 1.5 making it Tk 14. This makes the increase in per stick a negligible 6 paisa. As the poor people in the country are the main users of bidi so this increase in price will have no impact on their use.