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Tobacco taxation procedure should be kept free from tobacco companies' influence

The price of essential commodities increased multiple times but the price of tobacco products has not increase as expected. One of the main reasons for not increasing the price of tobacco products is tobacco industries’ tactics as well as ill- effort to influence on tax policy. Tobacco industry’s such kind of tricky effort is threat for public health and obstacle in achieving SDG goals in Bangladesh. Anti-tobacco activists expressed the above view in a human chain program titled ‘'Prevent tobacco industry's influence in tax policy' jointly organized by Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance (BATA) and Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust on 28 December 2017 in front National Press club.

During the program, they also demanded for the abolishment of slabs system on tobacco taxation. At the end of the program, a memorandum has been submitted to the Chairman of National board of Revenue demanding adoption of the strong tobacco tax policy, increase of actual price of all tobacco products and impose of higher tax in the budget of the upcoming fiscal year 2018-19.

Helal Ahmed, Secretary General of Prattyasha Anti-Drug Club presided over the program and Hasinur Rahman, Executive Director of BUKS; Syeda Anonna Rahman, Program Manager of Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust; Md. Nazmul Haider, Program Manager of YPSA; Abul Hasnat, President of Modern Club; Rokeya Begum, Member of Tamak Birodhi Nari Jote; Md. Al Masud, Executive Director of PMESD; KM Rakibul Islam Ripon, Executive Director of PSS; Md. Nazmul Alam Anik, Executive Director of PDS spoke in the program. The event moderated by Shuvo Karmokar, Assistant Network Officer of WBB Trust.  

Speakers said, ‘The National Board of Revenue has to be more aware of the fact of tobacco industries’ interference in the process of tobacco taxation in any way. Because, public health is above all. Taxation on tobacco is an effective method to make the Honorable Prime Minister's 'Tobacco-Free Bangladesh'.’ They also said, ‘Tobacco products are available in Bangladesh at the lowest price in the world. For this reason, the number of tobacco users in Bangladesh is more than 4 crore. According to the latest information, the government has to spend 11 thousand crore taka every year for the treatment of tobacco related diseases, which is twice  times the revenue received from tobacco products. Increasing tobacco price and tax will increase government revenue and reduce tobacco use and tobacco-related deaths. Which will play a role in reducing government spending in health sector in the long run.  

While in the program, also present Nazimuddin, member of BAPA national committee; Rajlakshmi Chowdhury, officer of ISDSM; Md. Mohiuddin Rasel, Research Assistant of TCRC; Md. Rakibul Islam, Advocacy Officer of AID Foundation; Sajeda Begum, Officer of SUS; Tuhin Mahmud, Executive Director of Sukh Sathi Sangstha; Zebunnessa, Founder Director of Heal; Ahsan Habib Murad from Himu paribahan, Md. Masum, Human rights activists and more.