Experts have urged the Prime Minister to make tobacco and tobacco products unaffordable by imposing more taxes on them and raising their price to make the country tobacco-free by 2040.
The proposed tax and price of tobacco products in the national budget for the fiscal year 2021-22 will make them more affordable, which will promote tobacco consumption by youths and impoverished people, they said.They came up with the suggestion at a virtual discussion on ‘Budget Reaction’ jointly organised by PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) on Sunday.
During the event, some proposals to discourage the use of tobacco products were put forward by Md. Hasan Shahriar, Project Head, Tobacco Control, PROGGA.
In its analysis of tobacco tax related measures in the proposed budget, PROGGA drew attention to the fact that the proposed budget has kept the prices and taxes on the low and medium tier cigarettes unchanged which respectively constitute around 72 and 16 percent of Bangladeshi cigarette market.
At the programme, Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Environment, Forestry and Climate Change, said, “The low and medium tier of cigarettes need to be merged and brought under specific taxation in the final budget of this year. We are working to save lives and we are not ready to give in to demands from tobacco companies.”
Eminent economist and the convener of the National Anti-Tobacco Platform Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said, "We called for increased prices for all tobacco products. We called for introduction of specific taxes but the proposed budget does not reflect any of these demands.”
Senior Research Fellow of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) and economist Dr. Nazneen Ahmed said, "The prices of low tier cigarettes need to be increased in one quick blow. This can discourage the youth from getting hooked on tobacco. We want the future youth to be healthy. Only then can we utilize the benefits of demographic dividends to develop our country." Research Director of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) Dr. Mahfuz Kabir said, "The low and medium tier cover around 88% of total cigarette market of the country. As a result, these tiers require a hike so that revenues could go up and health risks could be reduced."Dr. Syed Mahfuzul Huq, National Professional Officer of WHO, Md. Mostafizur Rahman, Lead Policy Advisor of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), Bangladesh, Prof Dr. Sohel Reza Choudhury of National Heart Foundation and ABM Zubair, Executive Director of PROGGA also spoke