If a specific tax is imposed on all tobacco products, it will play a significant role in tobacco control, besides increasing the government's revenue. On the other hand, to prevent revenue evasion, a robust national tax policy should be formulated as soon as possible, as announced by the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in addition to stopping the retail sale of cigarettes. They said these things in a press conference organized at Tafazzal Hossain Mia Hall of the National Press Club Wednesday (16th November 2022) at 11 am. Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance (BATA), Bangladesh Network for Tobacco Tax Policy (BNTTP), Bangladesh Cancer Society, National Heart Foundation, and Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust jointly organized a press conference on 'Tobacco Company's Most Popular Revenue Myths and Comparative Analysis.
Under the chairmanship of Professor Dr. Gholam Mohiuddin Farooq (Project Director, Bangladesh Cancer Society), Dr. Mahbubus Sobhan (Researcher, Department of Epidemiology and Research, National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute) read the written statement in the press conference. Fahimul Islam (Consultant, The Union), Nasir Uddin Sheikh (Country Manager, Vital Strategies), Elias Khan (GS, National Press Club), Gaous Pearee (Director, WBB Trust), Helal Ahmed (GS, Prottasha Anti-Drug organization) and Syeda Anonna Rahman (Head of Program, TC; NCD, WBB Trust) was present at the conference as an expert to answer the questions of media workers. Besides, more than 50 journalists from different media and about 50 representatives of various anti-tobacco organizations participated in the press conference.
Speakers at the conference said that two foreign companies had controlled most of the country's tobacco business in Bangladesh. These companies have chosen our country to expand their business. They are only taking profit from this country. But they do not accept any responsibility for the cost of diseases, sick people and economic losses, environmental losses, and other losses due to tobacco cultivation in this country. So we need to take steps to encourage people to buy healthy products instead of harmful products like tobacco. They also said that the goals of the government and the tobacco companies are entirely contradictory. Govt. is working to make the country tobacco-free by 2040.
On the other hand, tobacco companies are constantly working to increase the number of smokers in the country by improving their business. The government's objective is to fulfill the responsibility of the constitution, protect public health, and reduce health costs. On the other hand goal of the tobacco company is to make a profit. Regarding the myth of Tobacco companies' revenue, the speakers said a common myth in Bangladesh is that tobacco companies, especially British American Tobacco Company, pay the highest tax (Tk 22,630 crore) to the government. But the reality is entirely different. More than 95% of this vast revenue comes from public VAT. British American Tobacco Company pays only Tk 816 crore. In addition, a study by the Bangladesh Cancer Society in 2018 showed that the government spends more than Tk. 7.5 thousand crores on the treatment of tobacco-related diseases against the revenue earned by the government from the tobacco sector.
They also said that if the price of tobacco products is increased and specific taxes are imposed from the next financial year, the government will be able to earn additional revenue of more than Tk. 9 thousand cores. The provision of specific taxation on goods is not new in Bangladesh. According to the Baggage Rules 2016, there is a provision to levy particular taxes only on the quantity without the value of the goods in case of import of several goods from outside Bangladesh. This provision also exists in the case of mobile SIM. No maximum/minimum words are mentioned before or after the retail price printed on cigarette packets, and retail tobacco products are sold at prices higher than those printed on product wrappers at various places. He also mentioned in the press conference that the government is losing about Tk. Five thousand crores of revenue annually due to non-taxation of this additional value.
In the press conference, formulation of a specific tax structure on tobacco products, formulation of an effective and strong national tax policy for tobacco control, finding other vital means of tax collection by reducing dependency on tobacco, reducing the number of price levels from 4 to 2, banning the sale of retail tobacco, modernizing the tax collection system. Finally, the speakers recommended that manufacturers of smokeless tobacco products come under a registration and taxation system.