Anti-tobacco campaigners, at a post-budget press conference on Saturday, said the proposed budget for FY2022-23 will increase the use of cigarettes and other tobacco products among the poor and the youth.
It will also deprive the government of additional revenue and hike health expenditure as well, they said at the event organised by Progga (Knowledge for Progress) and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) at Dhaka Reporters Unity
The campaigners further said the proposed budget raises the price for low-tier cigarettes by only 2.56% and the prices of jarda, gul, and bidi have been kept unchanged. 75% of all cigarette smokers are users of low-tier cigarettes, most of whom belong to the poor and the youth demographic categories.
The medium, high, and premium tiers have seen a 3.17%, 8.82%, and 5.18% increase respectively, said a press release. The supplementary duty on low-tier cigarettes has been kept unchanged at the existing 57% while the retail price has seen Tk1 increase, they added.
As a result, tobacco products will become much cheaper compared to essential commodities, encouraging the youth and the poor to get hooked on this deadly addiction and putting public health in grave danger.
Eminent economist and convener of the National Anti-Tobacco Platform, Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said, "In the highly-used low-tier cigarettes, the price has been increased by only 10 paisa per stick. The prices of jarda, gul and bidi have not been increased at all. If the government implements our proposals, it will exponentially increase revenue earning and facilitate the building of a tobacco-free country."
Mahfuz Kabir, research director of the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies, said, "The price of tobacco products should be hiked by imposing a specific supplementary duty. It will make it easier to predict revenue accumulation and help the National Board Revenue to advance a step towards the implementation of a simple tobacco tax policy."
The campaigners urged the government to hike the price of tobacco products by imposing a specific supplementary duty in the budget as it will encourage 1.3 million adults to quit smoking.
Introducing a specific supplementary duty will help raise the prices of cigarettes and other tobacco products, prevent the deaths of 445,000 adults and 448,000 youths and generate additional revenue worth Tk9,200 crores from cigarettes alone as supplementary duty, health development surcharge, and VAT.