Bangladesh must ensure smarter and easier tax measures to build a tobacco free country by 2040, speakers said at a discussion on Wednesday.
They also urged the government to increase tobacco product prices by imposing specific taxes in the upcoming national budget for FY24 to reduce their consumption in the country.
Experts made the recommendations at a workshop titled “Tobacco Price and Tax Measures: Budget 2023-24,” jointly organised by PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) at the capitals’ BMA Bhaban.
Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids (CTFK) supported the event.
Research Director of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) Dr Mahfuz Kabir, “Tobacco products must be taken out of the people's purchasing power by imposing specific taxes in the upcoming national budget of FY 2023-24.”
Commenting on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s direction of building tobacco free Bangladesh by 2040, he pointed out that there is a need for an easier taxation system to implement such directives.
Presenting a budget proposal, World Health Organization (Bangladesh Country Office) National Professional Officer Dr Syed Mahfuzul Haque said, “The tobacco should be made less affordable in the country by hiking its prices.
“This would reduce tobacco-induced diseases and deaths, increase government revenue and ease revenue collection. Most countries have already chosen specific taxation as the best available method to tax tobacco products.”
He continued, “It is high time for Bangladesh to follow suit and introduce such a modern method to tax tobacco. There is much scope for the media to uphold public interest by playing a strong role in facilitating the introduction of specific taxes.
“As per the conditions set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for its loan package, Bangladesh needs to raise its revenue by an additional 0.5 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the next FY. Hiking the prices of the harmful products can help the country in meeting a considerable portion of such an ambitious target.”
Speaking at the event, Project Head of Tobacco Control of PROGGA Md Hasan Shahriar said, “Smarter, and easier tax measures are needed to build tobacco free Bangladesh by 2040.
“Compared to other cigarette tiers, a price hike at the low tier helps the impoverished tobacco users more as it encourages them to quit smoking. Seventy-five per cent of all cigarette smokers of Bangladesh are the users of low-tier brands. Unfortunately, the supplementary duty imposed on this tier stands at a mere 57 per cent.”
He added that the implementation of the tax and pricing proposals of anti-tobacco activists would fetch Tk 9,600 crores in additional revenues, and prevent the premature deaths of 4.88 lakh adults and 4.92 lakh youths.
CTFK Bangladesh Program Manager Md Abdus Salam, PROGGA Executive Director ABM Zubair, ATMA Convener Mortuza Haider Liton also spoke at the programme among others.