Tobacco consumption is one of the common guilty pleasures for general people although it does more harm than good. The death risk from smoking is increasing at a rapid speed. According to Global Adult Tobacco (GAT), around 161,000 people are dying every year in Bangladesh for tobacco usage.
In a bid to reduce this number and make a healthy nation Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already announced to turn Bangladesh a tobacco-free country by 2040. And to achieve this goal, the government is increasing cigarette prices in every budget. In the last four years, cigarette prices doubled.
According to GAT survey, 21.7 percent smokers are reduced in the last eight years. In 2012-2013 fiscal year, the government earned Tk 10,000 crore revenue from the tobacco sector and in this year, the target is set to earn many times more. Experts think this is a revolutionary step by the government for building a tobacco-free country.
According to the National Board of Revenue, cigarette price has been increased in every budget in the last decade. In 2019-2020 fiscal year’s budget, it is proposed to increase a high quality 10-stick cigarette packet to Tk 93 from Tk 75 and Tk 123 from Tk 105. Even low-quality cigarette packet is increased to Tk 37 from Tk 35 while medium quality cigarette is Tk 63 from Tk 48. These prices are the most in recent times.
In 2009-2010 fiscal year, low-quality 10-stick cigarette price was Tk7.50 which is proposed to be Tk37 in this year’s budget.
This effort of the government to decrease the number of smokers are highly appreciated by smokers and non-smokers. Enamul, a frequent smoker, said, “Price hike of cigarettes is a good step by the government but the prices of non-smoke tobacco products like Bidi, Gul, Jorda’s should also be increased at the same pace because those are doing more harm.” Prices of non-smoke tobacco products are also increased at a minimum level, he continued.
On the flip side, local cigarette producers are illegally producing low-quality cigarettes by taking advantage of this price hike. These cigarettes are priced very low to attract low-income people. According to different media facts, the amount of illegal cigarette market is Tk 2,000 crore. This great step of the government can be sabotaged by the illegal cigarette producers, who are doing tax evasion in the process.
Hasan, a non-smoker, said, ”The government should just not focus on revenue increment, it has to be stricter on smoking laws and its implementation.”
Market experts opine that if the price set by the government is properly implemented in the market then the government’s vision of making a tobacco-free country will be possible.