Increasing the price of tobacco products through imposing higher tax is an internationally pursued method to discourage tobacco use in public health protection.
In this context, it is important to increase taxes and prices of tobacco products in the upcoming 2022-23 budget to play a supportive role in achieving 'Tobacco-Free Bangladesh' by 2040 as promised by the prime minister. And the tobacco tax should be increased in such a way that the use of tobacco is reduced and discouraged.
The lawmakers and discussants on Thursday gave this suggestion at a pre-budget press conference organised by the Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) at the National Press Club in the capital.
Prof Dr Md Habibe Millat, MP was the chief guest at the event chaired by Iqbal Masud, Director of Health and WASH Sector, Dhaka Ahsania Mission.
Habibe Millat said that tobacco is a very harmful product for public health. Its financial loss is not less. As a result, steps must be taken to reduce tobacco use. In particular, it is very important to increase the tobacco tax to discourage the use of tobacco as per the directives of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to make the country tobacco-free by 2040.
Barrister Shamim Haider Patwari, MP, said there is a difference between the tobacco tax and other taxes. And the National Board of Revenue must understand this. Because the amount of tax collected from tobacco is many times more than the loss of public health.
Prof Dr Arup Ratan Choudhury, Founding President, MANAS said that there was no alternative to increasing tobacco tax if a tobacco-free Bangladesh is to be built as directed by the prime minister.
Abdus Salam Mia, Grants Manager, CTFK-Bangladesh, said that due to lack of effective taxation, tobacco products are becoming very cheap and readily available in Bangladesh. Therefore, the tax on tobacco should be increased.
Md Mostafizur Rahman, Lead Policy Adviser, CTFK-Bangladesh, said that if the government accepts the tax proposal made at the press conference, the number of tobacco users will be decreased and new users will be discouraged.
Iqbal Masud, Director of the Health and WASH Sector of DAM said, “The current tobacco tax structure is too complex that is a major obstacle to discouraging tobacco use. We have to simplify this tax structure. By doing this, if the tobacco tax is increased in an appropriate manner, it will play an effective role in reducing tobacco use”.
SM Rashedul Islam, General Secretary of Economic Reporters Forum (ERF), said that in order to get a tobacco-free Bangladesh, the tax system must be reformed.
Abdullah Nadvi, Director (Research), Unnayan Shamannay presented the keynote paper at the seminar moderated by Sharmin Akter Rini, Programme Officer, Tobacco Control Project, Dhaka Ahsania Mission.
The address of welcome was made by Md Shariful Islam, Project Coordinator, Tobacco Control Project, Dhaka Ahsania Mission.