Higher taxes sought on tobacco products

Staff Correspondent

31 May, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Specific taxes should be imposed on cigarettes and tobacco products to bring then out of reaches of the masses to make the country tobacco-free by the planned 2040, anti-tobacco campaigner PROGGA has demanded.

Tobacco intake cause the country over Tk 305.60 billion financial loss per year in terms of medical expenditure and loss of productivity, it said in a statement on Sunday on the eve of World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) being observed on Monday.

“The poor demographic is predominantly more price sensitive. Once prices of tobacco products are increased, it decreases the use of tobacco, tobacco-related diseases and deaths and other losses,” ABM Zubair, PROGGA executive director said.

 “So, increasing taxes on tobacco is a pro-poor measure,” he said, adding that the use of tobacco causes around 126,000 deaths in Bangladesh a year.

PROGGA sought banning smoking in all public places, work spaces, and public transport, banning the display of tobacco products at points of sale, banning CSR of tobacco companies, banning the sale of single sticks and unpackaged smokeless tobacco.              

It also urged the government to ban sale and import of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, calling for stricter rules on packaging including increasing the size of graphic health warnings with amending tobacco control law.

Currently, a smoker spends on average Tk 1077.7 per month for cigarettes, while average monthly expenditure for education and health of a household is only Tk835.7 and 700 respectively, suggests Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2016.

It’s a matter of concern that currently the lowest income people have a much higher tobacco use rate of 48 percent than the highest earning class’ rate of 24 percent, PROGGA informed.

Between 2009 and 2017, the average monthly expenditure for bidi has increased by 50 percent for each individual smoker, it added.

If the money spent on tobacco could be channeled into spending for education, health or the fight against human poverty, the economic condition of families could be radically improved, PROGGA argues.

Smoking quitters at about 30-40 years of age gain almost 9-10 years of life expectancy compared to those who continued tobacco use, according to the anti-tobacco campaigner.