Prices of cigarettes and other tobacco products should be increased through specific taxation to bring the goods beyond people's purchasing capacity to achieve a tobacco-free Bangladesh, speakers said at a virtual roundtable yesterday.
They said increasing tobacco product price through effective taxation discourages youths to start tobacco use. Increased price also encourages existing users, particularly those who are financially vulnerable, to quit.
Knowledge for Progress (Progga) and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) jointly organised the virtual roundtable on "Tobacco Tax and Price Measures for a Tobacco-Free Bangladesh: Reality and the Way Forward", said a press release sent by Progga.
At the roundtable, the organisers proposed to set retail price of cigarettes in different tiers -- Tk 140 for 10 sticks in the premium tier and Tk 110 for 10 sticks in high tier.
Additionally, they proposed to impose Tk 91 as specific supplementary duty (SD) in the premium tier and Tk 71.5 as SD in the high tier.
Addressing the roundtable, Saber Hossain Chowdhury, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Environment, Forestry and Climate Change, said, "Each year before budget, we raise our demands to increase tobacco taxes. Unfortunately, the national budget never reflects our demands."
Mentioning that the prime minister has voiced her vision for a tobacco-free Bangladesh, he said those who are putting obstacles in the way need to be identified.
Eminent economist and convener of National Anti-Tobacco Platform Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said, "It is quite frustrating for us to find NBR (col National Board of Revenue) saying increase in tobacco taxes would harm the poor. The reality is quite the contrary. Increase in tobacco taxes benefits the poor the most."
Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique, chairman of Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) and former vice-chancellor of Dhaka University, stressed on including lessons on detrimental effects of tobacco in the national curriculum and other co-curricular activities.
Additional Director-General of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Prof Meerjady Sabrina Flora said reducing affordability and use of cigarettes through tax increases allows people, particularly the poor, to spend more on nutrition and other necessities.
Nasir Uddin Ahmed, former chairman of NBR, urged the finance minister to increase prices of tobacco products in the upcoming budget.