To raise Tk 10,000 cr in additional revenues
Golam Mostafa Jibon: The lungs addicted with tobacco are at highly risk of COVID-19. At least 37.8 million adults use tobacco and 41 million people fall victim to second hand smoke in their own homes in the country each year. A large chunk of populations, who are victims of direct and indirect tobacco use, are currently at grave risk of severe coronavirus infection, said a study of World Health Organization (WHO).
Feeling the importance of the matter, Anti Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA), a unit of an anti-tobacco organization yesterday submitted its proposal to the National Board of Revenue (NBR) demanding hike of tobacco taxes and prices in the upcoming national budget 2020-21. The budget proposals was also submitted through e-mail this year as per the decision of NBR as an undeclared lockdown for 10 days from March 26 to April 4 is going on in the country due to devastation of Coronavirus.
The widespread availability of tobacco especially cigarette has pushed the tobacco users to such tragic level of vulnerability. For years, a flawed taxation structure, particularly the four-tier pricing system in cigarettes and the scope for purchasing tobacco products at very cheap prices have barred all the tobacco tax and price measures taken by the government from having desired effect, rendering them virtually ineffective.
Increasing tobacco prices and taxes is safeguarding public health since such move discourages the youth from developing the habit of tobacco use and also effectively encourages the current users, particularly the poor, to quit.
The demands intensified in the proposed budget are mentioned below:
Bringing the number of price slabs down to two (low and high) from four: (A) Merge the 37+ and 63+ taka tiers under low tier and the minimum retail price for 10 sticks should be BDT 65. A supplementary duty of 50 percent and 10-taka specific tax should be added in low-tier. (B) Merge the 93+ and 123+ taka tiers under premium tier and the minimum retail price for 10 sticks should be BDT 125. A supplementary duty of 50 percent and 19-taka specific tax should be added in premium tier.
Elimination of price distinction between filter and non-filter Bidis: In Bidi, the price for 25 filtered sticks should be BDT 40, which will be followed by a supplementary tax of 45 percent and a 6.85-taka specific tax. For 20 filtered Bidi sticks, the price should be BDT 32, followed by a supplementary tax of 45 percent and a 5.48-taka specific tax.
Increase the price of smokeless tobacco (SLTs): For SLT products, the price per 10 gram Zarda and Gul should be BDT 40 and 23 respectively. A supplementary duty of 45 percent will be applied in both cases. A specific tax amounting BDT 5.71 and 3.45 will be added for Zarda and Gul. A 15 percent value-added tax should also be applied for all tobacco products.
If the aforementioned proposals are implemented, it will encourage nearly 2 million current adult smokers to quit. Such move will prevent 6 lakh premature deaths in the long run and raise additional revenues up to BDT 10,000 crore for the government. The additional revenues generated may help the government to reclaim losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic. To curb the prevalence of tobacco at a much faster rate and to realize the vision for a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040 as declared by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, ATMA urges NBR to incorporate such proposals into the national budget for 2020-21.