Anti-tobacco groups have urged the government to increase the prices of tobacco products by introducing a specific tax system as they observed the proposed budget for FY 2022-23, if finally adopted and realised, will increase the use of cigarettes and other tobacco products among the poor and the youth.
It will deprive the government of additional revenue and, at the same time, hike health expenditure. As the proposed budget has kept the supplementary duty unchanged and failed to introduce a specific tax system, the opportunity for tobacco companies to exponentially expand their profit remains wide open.
Speakers said this on Saturday during a post-budget press conference, jointly organised by PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) held at the Dhaka Reporters Unity. The event was supported by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK).
It was informed that the proposed budget raises the price for low-tier cigarettes by only 2.56 percent while 75 percent of all cigarette smokers are users of low-tier cigarettes. Most of them belong to the poor and the youth demographic categories. The medium, high, and premium tiers have seen a 3.17 percent, 8.82 percent, and 5.18 percent increase respectively.
Citing the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), speakers say that 2022 (provisional) has seen a 10 percent increase in the National Per Capita Income (nominal) over the previous year. Compared to the increase in per capita income, the hike in cigarette price will only make cigarettes more affordable and particularly encourage the youth to light up.
They put forward some recommendations.
Cigarette: The retail price for 10 sticks of low-tier cigarettes should be set at 50, followed by BDT 32.50 as specific supplementary duty (SD). In the medium-tier, the retail price should be set at BDT 75 and Supplementary Duty at BDT 48.75. In the high and premium tier, the retail prices for 10 sticks each should be Taka 120 and Taka 150 respectively, and be followed by the specific supplementary duty of Taka 78 ad Taka 97.50 respectively.
Bidi: For non-filtered bidis, the retail price should be BDT 25 for 25 sticks, followed by Taka 11.25 as a specific supplementary tax. For filtered bidis, the retail price and specific supplementary duty for 20 sticks should be Taka 20 and Taka 9 respectively.
Jarda and Gul: The retail prices for 10 grams of jarda should be BDT 45, followed by BDT 27.00 (60 percent) as a specific supplementary tax. For 10 grams of gul, the retail price should be BDT 25 and supplemented by BDT 15 as a specific supplementary tax.
Introducing specific supplementary duty in the finalised budget and raising the prices of cigarettes and other tobacco products as mentioned above, will encourage 1.3 million adults to quit smoking, and in the long run, prevent the deaths of 445,000 adults and 448,000 youths, and generate additional revenue worth BDT 9,200 crores from cigarettes alone as supplementary duty, health development surcharge, and VAT.
The event was attended by Convener of the National Anti-Tobacco Platform economist Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Research Director of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) Dr. Mahfuz Kabir, Prof of economics Dr. Rumana Haq, Senior Policy Advisor of CTFK Bangladesh Md. Ataur Rahman, Grants Manager of CTFK Bangladesh Md. Abdus Salam, convener of ATMA Mortuza Haider Liton, and Executive Director of PROGGA ABM Zubair, among others.