Anti-tobacco campaigners and economists yesterday demanded that the government, considering the growth of people's purchasing capacity and per capita income, impose higher tax on tobacco products to make Bangladesh tobacco-free by 2040.
They also demanded imposition of 15 percent value added tax (Vat) on all tobacco products, make the taxation procedure simpler, formulate a separate tax policy for tobacco, and take strict measures to bring all smokeless tobacco brands under tax.
The demands were placed at a pre-budget press conference held at Dhaka Reporters' Unity in the capital. Progga, an anti-tobacco research organisation, and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA), in association with several other organisations, arranged the programme.
For the last several years, anti-tobacco activists have been demanding change in the tobacco products' tax structure, which is very complex and old, said Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF).
“Relevant government bodies like NBR [National Board of Revenue] agreed with our demands, but we didn't see any reflection of it,” said the noted economist.
“We are again demanding to impose such a tax so that it becomes effective to increase the price of tobacco products. It will help protect people from the dangers of tobacco,” added Kholiquzzaman, also chairman of National Anti-Tobacco Platform.
Dr Mahfuz Kabir, research director of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), said tax is an effective tool to reduce the usage of tobacco, and it has been proven by many studies.
“Price of tobacco products is increasing around the world due to higher taxes. But compared to people's purchasing power, the price in Bangladesh doesn't increase,” he added.
In a keynote paper, Mahfuz proposed to the government to reduce cigarette's price level from four to two [high and low], remove price division among bidi with or without filters, and revoke tariff value system on smokeless tobacco products, like jorda and gul.
He also proposed to impose a specific supplementary tax on all tobacco products and reduce the price gap between low and high category cigarette.
AAMS Arefin Siddique, former vice-chancellor of Dhaka University, said
the increase of tobacco products' price is a must to protect the youths from its grasp.
Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies; Nasiruddin Ahmed, former chairman of NBR; ABM Jubair, executive director of Progga; and Mortuza Haider Liton, convener of ATMA, also spoke at the press conference.