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Demand for abolishing slab system of tobacco tax

Due to the slab system of tobacco taxation in different tobacco products including bidi, cigarette, jarda-gul, cunning tobacco industries evade taxes. So public health experts and economists recommended to increase taxes on tobacco products with equal rates by abolishing the existing misleading and layered tax structure. Speakers said, as all kinds of tobacco causes death so high tax should impose on all tobacco. It should consider while increasing tobacco tax, the real retail price of tobacco products should increase.

This is urged in a seminar on “Importance of Increasing Tobacco Tax” jointly organized by Institute of Health Economics of Dhaka University and Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust on 23 April 2017 at National Press Club. Founder Director of Institute of Health Economics of Dhaka University Prof. Shushil Ranjan Howlader chaired in the seminar and President of National Anti Tuberculosis Association of Bangladesh (NATAB) Mozaffar Hossain Poltu and Member of Parliament Adv. Nurjahan Begum Mukta addressed as guest of honor. Professor of Economics Department from Dhaka University Dr. Rumana Huq presented keynote speech.

Among others, Additional Secretary of Ministry of Public Administration Md. Mahmudur Rahman; Commissioner of Customs Excise and Vat Commissionarate Dr. Shahidul Islam; Technical Advisor of The Union Syed Mahbubul Alam; Director of WBB Trust Gaous Pearee discussed in the seminar. Spokesperson of Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance Aminul Islam Sujon moderated the seminar.

Dr. Rumana Huq said, ‘tax on low-price cigarette is less in Bangladesh among South Asia and the price and tax of jarada, gul and bidi is lowest in world. Benefit of increasing tax cannot be availed due to existing layered system of tobacco tax. So it is necessary to abolish the layered tax structure of Jarda-Gul-bidi-cigarette.’ Showing the statistics of research, she said ‘the actual price of bidi is not increased even after increasing small amount of tax, rather its real prices decreased. Increasing price of tobacco products is lowest in comparison with several necessary products including milk, egg and rice.

In the discussion speakers said, ‘Honorable Prime Minister made a declaration to make Bangladesh Tobacco-free by 2040. Tobacco tax should increase to achieve the declaration. Besides, Finance minister expressed his wish to abolish bidi factories. Tobacco tax has to increase in such a way that would influence the real price of tobacco products. As well as, in which sector the surcharge earned from tobacco products will expense have to be specified. All kinds of tobacco bring death. So real price of all tobacco products should increase to discourage people from tobacco addiction.

Representative from member organizations of Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance across the country; teachers and students of Institute of Health Economics of Dhaka University attended the seminar and took part in the discussion.