Simply hiking tax rates and prices will not help to establish control over tobacco products and safeguard public health, says National Board of Revenue (NBR) Chairman Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem.
He said that neither the upper class nor the lower-income people will give up doing drugs because of the high prices and he will be in favour of cannabis use if it helps to fight other harmful drugs such as yaba, heroin and phensedyl.
Rather they would cut expenses by stopping their children from having an education or a healthy meal for drugs, he said while addressing a pre-budget discussion with members of the Anti Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) at the NBR Building in Dhaka's Segunbagicha on Wednesday.
For the past few years, anti-tobacco organisations across the country have been vying for increased tobacco prices and the NBR has been complying with the demands by imposing additional taxes on related products on a regular basis.
Addressing ATMA's demand for further raising tobacco prices, the NBR chairman said, "Tobacco companies get happy when you people [anti-tobacco orgs] demand price hikes.
"We feel the same. When [tobacco] prices go up, both protesters and companies become ecstatic."
"But you [anti-tobacco orgs] need to get this notion of 'hiked tobacco prices helps control drug abuse' out of your heads. We [NBR] don't want to push people towards the use of phensedyl and heroin by raising [tobacco] prices," the NBR chief added.
He urged concerned bodies to conduct studies to find out whether excessive price hike of tobacco products is aiding the use of other harmful drugs in the country.
Speaking about legalising cannabis in Bangladesh, he said, "I will be in favour of cannabis use only if it helps to fight other harmful drugs such as heroin, phensedyl and yaba."
Senior NBR officials and ATMA members attended and spoke at the event.