Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) has urged the National Board of Revenue (NBR) to set the price of 10 sticks of low-tier cigarettes at Tk 50, and hike prices of all tobacco products by imposing specific taxes.
The demands were raised during a FY 2022-23 pre-budget meeting between ATMA delegates and NBR, held on Wednesday.
The pre-budget meeting was presided by NBR Chairman Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem.
ATMA delegates informed at the meeting that the implementation of their proposed tobacco price and tax measures would save the lives of more than 445,000 adults and nearly 448,000 youths from premature death. They also mentioned that it would also provide scope to additionally earn Tk 9,200 crore in revenues.
The recent years have barely seen any decline in the prevalence of cigarette use. Owing to the extremely low tax base and tax rates, tobacco products of all types, i.e. cigarettes and smokeless tobacco items have remained highly affordable. The existing tobacco tax structure is highly complex and incapable of doing enough to discourage the use of tobacco products.
As a result, the current tobacco tax structure fails to contribute to the achievement of a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040, as declared by the Prime Minister, they said.
According to Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2017, 37.8 million adults (15 years old and above) in Bangladesh use tobacco (smoke and smokeless). Tobacco is responsible for around 1,61,000 deaths a year in Bangladesh. In 2017-18 FY alone, tobacco incurred a financial loss (from medical expenses and loss of productivity) of more than Tk 30,560 crore.
Increasing tobacco prices and taxes would safeguard public health since such a move would discourage the youth from developing the habit of tobacco use and also effectively encourage the current users, particularly the poor, to quit.
The NBR chairman said, “We are aware of the massive healthcare cost incurred by tobacco use. Although taxation and price increase involve a number of other factors, we want tobacco use to decrease. Revenues can come from other sources. So, we will try to accommodate the proposals presented by ATMA based on all circumstantial factors involved.”
NBR officials were present in the pre-budget meeting along with ATMA representatives that include Shahnaz Munni, Chief News Editor, News24; Monir Hossain Liton, Joint Chief News Editor, Ekattor Television; Mortuza Haider Liton, Chief Crime Correspondent, bdnews24.com and convenor, ATMA; Nadira Kiron, News Editor, ATN Bangla and co-convener, ATMA; and Mizan Chowdhury, Senior Reporter, Daily Jugantor and co-convener, ATMA.
At the meeting, ATMA presented some proposals to be considered in the upcoming budget for FY 2022-23.
It was further stated at the meeting that implementation of the proposals for tax and price hike of tobacco products will encourage 1.3 million people to quit smoking.
ATMA urged the NBR to implement the proposals as a step towards building a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040.