Raising tobacco products' prices thru' specific taxes demanded -The Asian Age

The Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) has urged the National Board of Revenue (NBR) to set the price of 10 sticks of low-tier cigarettes at BDT 50 and to hike prices of all tobacco products by imposing specific taxes.

The demands were raised during a FY 2022-23 pre-budget meeting between ATMA delegates and NBR, held today on 16 February 2022. The pre-budget meeting was presided by NBR Chairman Abu Hena Md. Rahmatul Muneem. ATMA delegates informed at the meeting that the implementation of their proposed tobacco price and tax measures would save the lives of more than 445,000 current adults and nearly 448,000 youth from premature deaths and additionally earn BDT 9,200 crore in revenues. The recent years have barely seen any decline in the prevalence of cigarette use. Owing to the extremely low tax base and tax rates, tobacco products of all types, i.e. cigarettes, bidis and smokeless tobacco items (jarda and gul) have remained highly affordable.

 The existing tobacco tax structure is highly complex and incapable of doing enough to discourage the use of tobacco products. As a result, the current tobacco tax structure fails to contribute, as it is supposed to, to the achievement of a tobacco-free Bangladesh, as declared by the Honorable PM. According to GATS 2017, 37.8 million adults (15 y/o and above) in Bangladesh use tobacco (smoke and smokeless). Tobacco is responsible for around 161,000 deaths a year in Bangladesh. In 2017-18 FY alone, tobacco incurred a financial loss (from medical expenses and loss of productivity) of more than BDT 30,560 crore. Increasing tobacco prices and taxes is safeguarding public health since such move discourages the youth from developing the habit of tobacco use and also effectively encourages the current users, particularly the poor, to quit.

In the pre-budget meeting NBR officials were present along with ATMA representatives that include Shahnaz Munni, Chief News Editor, News24,; Monir Hossain Liton, Joint Chief News Editor, Ekattor Television; Mortuza Haider Liton, Chief Crime Correspondent, bdnews24.com and convenor, ATMA; Nadira Kiron, News Editor, ATN Bangla and co-convener, ATMA;  and Mizan Chowdhury, Senior Reporter, Daily Jugantor and co-convener, ATMA.

In the discussion, the NBR chairman said, "We are aware of the massive healthcare cost incurred by tobacco use. Although taxation and price increase involve a number of other factors, we want to see tobacco use decreasing. Revenues can come from other sources. So, we will try to accommodate proposals presented by ATMA based on all circumstantial factors involved".