A total of 97 Members of Parliament (MPs) has signed a letter to protect public health to the finance minister recommending increase taxes and prices of all kinds of tobacco products including cigarettes in the 2022-23 final national budget.
The letter has been initiated by the Bangladesh Parliamentary Forum for Health & Wellbeing, reads a press release.
It will be possible to save innumerable people from premature death and to keep away from using tobacco uses if this recommendation is implemented, say the lawmakers.
Also earning additional revenue will be possible.
All of these will help to achieve "Tobacco-Free Bangladesh by 2040" as announced by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
On Tuesday (22 June), the letter has been handed over to Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem, chairman of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) by Dr Nizam Uddin Ahmed, executive director and director, and Dr Md Rafiqul Islam of Shastho Shurokkha Foundation, the secretariat organisation of "Bangladesh Parliamentary Forum for Health & Wellbeing".
The NBR chairman said, "The issue of raising the tax on tobacco products is now under the jurisdiction and consideration of the members of parliament. If they recommend raising this issue in the Parliament session, it will be possible to implement it by coordination between the Ministry of Finance and us (National Board of Revenue).
In the letter, MPs recommend increasing the price of lower and medium tire cigarettes and bidis to save low-income people.
It also mentioned that, if the recommendations are implemented, the additional revenue could be used to achieve SDG's target of 3.4% – to reduce non-communicable disease deaths by one-third by 2030. Increasing the price of low-end cigarettes could protect low-income cigarette users.
They are expending their 21% income on tobacco products.
If this money is spent on education instead of tobacco products, it will be possible to increase the total cost of education of their children by 11%, the letter adds.
Tobacco control activities have been significantly intensified since 2009. However, still 35.3% of adults (37.4 million) in Bangladesh use tobacco (smoking and non-smokers), while about 38.4 million adults are exposed to secondhand smoke in various public places, workplaces and public transport without smoking, according to a 2017 GATS report.
More than 1.61 lakh people die every year in Bangladesh due to tobacco use.
In the 2016-17 financial year, the amount of economic loss (loss of medical expenses and productivity) of tobacco use was Tk30,560 crore.