Anti-tobacco campaigners and academicians yesterday demanded that the government impose higher tax on tobacco products -- both smoking and smokeless -- to increase the prices so that people are discouraged from using them.
They also demanded reducing the price category of cigarette from four to two, merging the price categories of bidi (locally made cigarette) into one, and imposing supplementary duty on all kinds of tobacco products, including jorda and gul.
They placed the demands at a press conference jointly organised by Bureau of Economic Research of Dhaka University (DU), Bangladesh Cancer Society and Bangladesh Tamak Birodhi Jote (an alliance of anti-tobacco organisations) at Jatiya Press Club.
Rumana Huque, a professor of economics at DU, said if tax is increased on tobacco products, the government will be able to earn substantial revenue. At the same time, usage of tobacco and deaths caused by it will reduce significantly.
In a keynote paper, she also said the current price structure of cigarettes is very complex as it has four categories -- low, medium, high and premium -- which should be reduced to two, low and high.
“Having many categories make the tax process more complex, creating a scope for tobacco companies to evade the duty. No country has so many categories like us,” said Prof Rumana.
Prof Golam Mohiuddin Faruque, joint secretary of Bangladesh Cancer Society, said the negative impacts of tobacco on public health as well as economy have been established, so the government should take strict measures like imposing higher tax to reduce its usage.
Helal Ahmed, acting coordinator of Bangladesh Tamak Birodhi Jote, and Syed Mahbubul Alam, a technical adviser to The Union (International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease), also spoke at the press conference.