Impose Specific Tax, Increase the Price of Tobacco Products and Protect Public Health: Speakers in DAM Webinar

The current tobacco tax structure is extremely complex which is a major obstacle for discouraging tobacco usage. And so, this tax structure needs to be simplified. This will be effective in reducing tobacco usage if the tobacco tax is increased in a proper manner,’ said the speakers at a virtual exchange meeting with the members of the Executive Committee of the Economic Reports’ Forum (ERF) organized by Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) on 03 May. The speakers said, ‘Bangladesh is one of the most tobacco consuming countries in the world. In this country the price of cigarettes is very low, bidi is cheaper. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the per capita national income (nominal) has increased by 25.4 percent in 2017-18 as compared to 2015-16. However, the price of most cigarettes has remained almost unchanged or has increased slightly. As a result, cigarettes are becoming more readily available. That is why, it is important to increase the price of cigarettes in a proper way, that is, through a specific tax increase.

Iqbal Masud, Director, Health and Wash Sector, Dhaka Ahsania Mission delivered his welcome speech in the meeting. Dr. Syed Mahfuzul Haque, National Professional Officer (NCD), World Health Organization (WHO), Abdus Salam Mia, Grants Manager, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Bangladesh, Md. Mostafizur Rahman, Lead Policy Advisor, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Bangladesh, Sharmeen Rinvy, President of Economic Reports Forum (ERF) and SM Rashedul Islam, General Secretary of ERF were present as speakers in the meeting titled ‘Way Forward to Tobacco free Bangladesh by 2040: Tobacco Tax’. Md. Shariful Islam, Project Coordinator, Tobacco Control Project, Dhaka Ahsania Mission, presented the keynote paper at the seminar moderated by Rezaur Rahman Rizvi, Media Manager, Tobacco Control Project, Dhaka Ahsania Mission.

In the keynote paper, the proposal for cigarettes in the financial year 2021-2022 was to introduce a specific excise (supplementary) duty based on the price level of all cigarette brands with uniform coverage (supplementary duty 65% of final retail price). Determining the retail price of cigarettes at TK 50 per 10 sticks and imposing a specific supplementary duty of TK 32.50 at the low tier. At the middle tier, the retail price of every 10 sticks of cigarettes is to be fixed at TK 70 and a specific supplementary duty of TK 45.50 is to be imposed. At the higher level, the retail price of 10 sticks of cigarettes is to be fixed at TK 110 and a fixed supplementary duty of Tk 71.50 and at the premium tier, the retail price of 10 sticks of cigarettes at Tk 140 and a supplementary duty of Tk 91 is to be fixed. In the medium term (2021-22 to 2025-26), the price and tax gap between cigarette brands will be reduced from 4 to 2.

Iqbal Masud said tobacco is linked to six of the eight leading causes of preventable death worldwide. In Bangladesh, more than 1 lakh 61 thousand people die every year from diseases caused by tobacco usage. But we are not as much concerned about it as we should be.

The meeting made some recommendations on tobacco control. These are: To reduce the easy availability of tobacco products, specific supplementary tariffs must be increased regularly in line with inflation and income growth. To simplify the taxation process, the existing divisions/variety/tiers between tobacco products need to be removed. All smokeless tobacco products should be brought under the tax net. To formulate and implement a simple and effective tobacco tax policy (for a period of 5 years) which will contribute to the reduction of tobacco usage and increase in revenue and the re-imposition of 25 per cent export duty on tobacco products.

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