Considering the fatalities caused by tobacco, human rights and research organisation, Voice, arranged a webinar titled "The necessity of increasing tobacco tax to save public health" prior to budget.
Speakers in the webinar demanded specific imposition of tax on all tobacco products to make it unaffordable for the sake of public health.
Planning Minister, MA Mannan MP, was the chief guest in the seminar and respectable economist and Chairman of PKSF, Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, was the chairperson.
The webinar was moderated by executive director of Voice, Ahmed Swapan Madmud.
Parliament members Aroma Dutta, Shirin Akhter, Ashim Kumar Ukil, Shamim Haider Patwary and Mustafizur Rahman, Lead Policy Advisor of Campaign for Tobacco free Kids were the special guests.
The key note presentation by Zayed Siddiki, the project coordinator of Voice, was focused on the current complicated tobacco tax structure of Bangladesh where different amount of tax is imposed on different tiers.
The fact that, the prices of tobacco products did not increase with the per capita income raise of people was attributed to the failure of tobacco tax increase attempt in the past
According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics per capita income of people in Bangladesh grew by 25.4% in 2017-2018 fiscal year compared to 2015-16.
But the prices of tobacco products remained almost the same or increase insignificantly.
Specially the prices of lower tier cigarettes have remained cheap and affordable which is why tobacco consumption among poor people did not decrease.
Bangladesh is one of the largest tobacco consuming countries in the world with 35.3% of her grown-up population are addicted to tobacco. Because of the cheaper rate of bidi, cigarette and other tobacco products it remains extremely challenging to contain the fatality rate.
However, controlling the prices of tobacco by imposing tax has proved to be an effective way to reduce tobacco consumption. This is why a number of suggestions to reform tax structure was raised in the webinar.
The webinar suggested to reform the system where 57% tax is imposed on lower tier cigarette and 65% tax on the rest by introducing equal amount of tax on all tiers; in addition to that 15 per cent VAT and 1 per cent health development surcharge will be applied to the final retail price; in case of non-filter bidi specific tax should be 45% of the retail price etc.
If this happens it will abstain 8 lakh young people to start smoking and encourage 11 lakh grown-ups to give up the habit. It will also save lives of 4 lakh youngster.