Anti-Tobacco organisations Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance (BATA), Bangladesh Network for Tobacco Tax Policy (BNTTP) and Tamak Birodhi Nari Jote (TABINAJ) expressed their concern on Thursday as response to proposed tobacco tax in the budget.
Though tax increase is the effective measure of reducing tobacco use but it has been ignored in the proposed budget, said a press release issued by BATA.
It added that the government didn't give importance in this matter though in the current pandemic situation it should be the main consideration.
"Though there is a target to bring tobacco use down to 5% to make Bangladesh tobacco-free by 2040, the proposed tax in the budget will have no contribution to reduce tobacco use. Instead, this tax system will support tobacco companies to generate new smokers and encourage existing smokers to keep the habit. About 72% smokers in Bangladesh smokes lower tier cigarettes," the press release said.
The anti-tobacco group said that the lower and middle tier cigarette users combines almost 88% of smokers. Due to not increasing the price of these tiers it will increase the use and encourage the youth to start smoking because of availability. At the same time, the no of biri and smoke-less tobacco users will increase as the price will remain unchanged which may bring out harmful threat to public health.
"The proposed price and tax is frustrating, and for this, the tobacco related disease and deaths will drastically increase. At the same time, government will lose huge amount of revenue due to not imposing specific tax system but tobacco companies will be benefited," the press release read.
The anti-tobacco group added that it will increase the health risk of poor people in a high rate as the lower tier product price remains same.
At the same time, it will increase the tobacco related disease and death among them. The country will face huge economic loss due to increase of tobacco related disease and deaths. Simultaneously, it will create obstruct in achieving Prime Ministers promise of tobacco free Bangladesh by 2040, the press release adeed.
The group also said, tobacco are selling in the form of single sticks. In the higher tier the increase price of 10 stick is tk5 and in the premium tier tk7 won't make any change in the single stick price. This increase price is less than the inflation and affordability of purchase so uses of this cigarette will be increase.
They said that, if proposed tax imposes about 11 lakh adult smokers will quit and 8 lakh new smoker will be discouraged. At the same time, government revenue will increase about 3400 crore. But there is no reflection of these in the Finance Ministers budget.
Professor Dr. Rumana Huque, Department of Economics University of Dhaka and Convener, BNTTP said, in the proposed budget without bringing any change in the price of lower and middle tier, the 10 sticks cigarette price remains same tk39 and tk63 as previous year. Moreover there are no changes in the price of biri, jorda and gul also.
But, with the increase of per capita income, the inflation and price of regular essential products also increases. Considering that, the price of tobacco products is not increased in that rate. So these products becomes more available comparing to previous years.
She added, this will increase the tobacco companies earning due to tax impose with faulty ad-velorem system., every year tobacco company got benefitted.
A multinational tobacco company earns 28% profit in 2028 which is not possible in any other business. This company boosted up their profit 5 times in 10 years where the production of the company increases only 2 times, she remarked.
She expects that, considering the protection of public health and increase of revenue, this proposed budget will be changed in the parliament by adopting specific tax system and imposing the rational amount of price and tax of tobacco products as per our recommendations.