Research and advocacy organisation Progga (Knowledge for Progress) and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) yesterday demanded increasing prices of cigarettes and other tobacco products through imposing specific taxes.
They made the demands at a virtual press conference.
The two organisations proposed introducing a tiered, specific excise (supplementary duty-SD) with uniform tax burden (SD share of 65 percent of the final retail price) across all cigarette brands for the upcoming budget of fiscal 2021-22.
For 10-stick cigarette packs, they demanded the government set Tk 50 for low-tier cigarettes followed by Tk 32.50 as SD; Tk 70 for medium-tier ones with SD of Tk 45.50; Tk 110 for high-tier ones followed by SD of Tk 71.50; and for premium-tier, Tk 140 with SD of Tk 91.
They also demanded reducing price tiers from four to two by reducing the gaps in final prices and tax rates among cigarette brands within fiscal 2025-26. They said, for 25 non-filtered bidi sticks, the retail price should be Tk 25, and the price for 20 filtered sticks should be Tk 20.
For smokeless tobacco products, the organisations' demands were to fix price of per 10-gram jarda and gul at Tk 45 and 25, respectively, where supplementary duty should be 60 percent on the final retail price.
The existing 15 percent value added tax (VAT) and one percent heath development surcharge on all tobacco products should be retained, said Progga Tobacco Control Project Head Md Hasan Shahriar, while presenting the budget proposals.
"I fully support the budget proposals to increase tobacco taxes and prices. The government must look for people's welfare, as dictated in our constitution. Unfortunately, the government only prioritises the revenue aspect, ignoring how it impacts people's lives," said eminent economist Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, who was also convener of National Anti-Tobacco Platform.
"To hike tobacco taxes and prices, we can always follow the precedents set by neighbouring Sri Lanka. We can progress through learning from each other. We also need to educate the youth on the detrimental effects of tobacco," said Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique, former vice-chancellor of Dhaka University.
Speakers said the implementation of their proposals for tax and price hike will encourage 1.1 million people to quit smoking, prevent premature deaths of 3,90,000 current adults and 4,00,000 current youths, and earn Tk 3,400 crore as additional revenue from supplementary duty, health development surcharge and VAT.
Among others, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies Senior Research Fellow Dr Nazneen Ahmed, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies Research Director Dr Mahfuz Kabir and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Bangladesh Lead Policy Advisor Md Mostafizur Rahman talked on the matter.
The event was hosted by of ATMA Co-convener Nadira Kiron, while ATMA Convener Mortuza Haider Liton, Progga Executive Director ABM Zubair and representatives of anti-tobacco organisations and media outlets joined the press conference.