Experts suggest imposing 65% specific exercise tax on tobacco related products
Not imposing enough tax on tobacco-based products is a serious misplaced priority of the government, Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP has said.
“It’s an open secret that the hands of the tobacco syndicate are very long. But we have to show that our hands are longer. Otherwise, it’s a defeat despite having a constitutional mandate on our side,” he said on Sunday at a virtual discussion on “Budget Response 2021-22” arranged by Progga and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA).
Also the chairman of a Parliamentary Standing Committee, Saber mentioned tobacco as an imminent public health crisis.
He said: “If the government can allocate such a huge amount of money to tackle the pandemic, why aren’t we doing more to pledge against tobacco which causes 15 times more premature deaths?
“The finance minister said in the budget session that it was a political decision. But public health is all about prevention. How long can we go on with such a fatal policy?”
Noted economist and Convener of the National Anti-Tobacco Forum Dr Khalekuzzaman Ahmed expressed dissatisfaction over the government not being strong enough despite repeated assurance.
“The government assured us of creating a simple tobacco tax policy to implement our prime minister’s declaration on making the country tobacco free by 2040. But the policy hasn’t come up till date. The demands of many lawmakers and responsible citizens like us are not reflected adequately in this year’s budget,” he said.
Dr Nazneen Ahmed, senior fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), emphasized on studying the effect of robust tax imposition on tobacco products.
“Whenever we talk about imposing more and more tax on cigarettes and other related products, the question of tax collection appears as the biggest challenge for the government.”
She suggested carrying out detailed research on the elasticity of the tobacco products “so that it can be inferred that price hike can decrease tobacco consumption and benefit NBR to collect tax revenue.”
Md Hasan Shahriar, Progga’s head of program, opened the discussion highlighting the background and key points.
He said: “This year the government has increased tax only on premium tobacco products whereas 88% of the tobacco consumers rely on lower and medium quality cigarettes.”
Terming it an eye-washing technique, Shahriar said that price increment in premium quality tax would not affect the higher tier customers.
“Moreover, no tax has been levied on non-smoking tobacco products, whereas the women and marginalized people are directly falling prey due to this sort of tobacco consumption,” he added.
Progga has proposed a few alterations to this year’s budget policy such as imposing 65% specific exercise tax on tobacco-related products, increasing the price of tobacco products in accordance with the income ability of people, creating a five-year tobacco tax policy plan and sustaining the 25% export tax on tobacco-related products.
Others who spoke at the event were Dr Nasir Uddin Ahmed, former chairman of the National Board of Revenue (NBR); Md Mostafizur Rahman, lead policy advisor of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) Bangladesh; Dr Sohail Reza Chowdhury, professor of Department of Epidemiology and Research at the National Heart Foundation; Dr Syed Mahfuzul Haque, national professional officer of the World Health Organization (WHO); and Mahfuz Kabir, research director of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS).