Economic Reporters Forum, Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance and Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust jointly organized a discussion on Necessary Imposition of Specific Tax on Tobacco Products on February 28, 2021. Adv. Syed Mahbubul Alam (TA, The Union), Gauss Pierre (Director, WBB Trust), Anti-tobacco researcher Shushanta Sinha (Special Correspondent, Jamuna TV) were attended at the meeting chaired by Sharmin Rinvi (President, Economic Reporters Forum).
Professor Dr. Rumana Haque, (Department of Economics, Dhaka University) presented the keynote address at the meeting Conducted by SM Rashidul Islam (General Secretary, Economic Reporters Forum).
In her presentation Dr. Rumana Haque said that, the smoking rate has dropped from 43% to 35% in the 8 years from 2009 to 2017 and it has been possible as a result of various initiatives taken by the government. This continuity must be maintained. Tobacco companies are encouraging young people to use tobacco to promote tobacco and increase their customer base. In order to protect the younger generation from this scourge, a specific tax has to be levied on it and the conventional price tiered system has to be abolished. Properly raising taxes on tobacco at a higher rate will increase revenue and, conversely, reduce the number of tobacco users.
Responding to questions from reporters, Dr Rumana Haque said a joint study by the Dhaka University Department of Economics and the Bangladesh Cancer Society found that the revenue from the tobacco sector was around Tk 23,000 crore, while more than Tk 30,000 crore was spent on treatment of tobacco- related diseases.
Sharmin Rinvi said that "We need to control tobacco to protect our future generations". In this case, along with the state measures, family awareness has to be increased. As media workers, we also need to play an effective role in tobacco control.
Adv. Syed Mahbubul Alam said that when it comes to tobacco control, various misleading information including revenue, cigarette smuggling and employment are provided. However, more money is spent on the treatment of diseases caused by tobacco. The price of cigarettes in Bangladesh is lower than the neighboring countries which prove that the smuggling of cigarettes is basically a false propaganda of the company. Through such campaigns, companies try to block tax increases on tobacco. Despite Bangladesh being one of the largest markets for tobacco, a small number of people are involved in the marketing, production and cultivation of tobacco. It is possible to gradually reduce dependency on tobacco through long-term planning. He urged the media to be more vigilant in preventing the spread of misleading information by tobacco companies.
Sushanta Sinha said that tobacco companies are carrying out aggressive campaigns targeting the younger generation. Cigarette production in the country is growing at a rate of 2 percent a year, which is actually benefiting the tobacco companies. A multinational tobacco company has invested more than Tk. 12000 crore because of the growing tobacco market in Bangladesh. In fact, ordinary people are being harmed in all areas including tobacco use, production and cultivation. Tobacco-growing areas are among the poorest in the country. 94% of the total cigarettes in Bangladesh are sold openly. To keep young people away from tobacco, it is necessary to increase the tax, amend the law and stop selling open cigarettes.
Gauss Pearee said our public health is more important than revenue collection. Increasing taxes on tobacco is one of the most effective ways to control it. Increasing the tax on tobacco, which is considered a health hazardous product, should take it beyond the purchasing power of the people.
Zafar Ahmed (Senior reporter, Khola Kagoj), Raju Ahmed (Senior Reporter, GTV), Alamgir Hossain (Reporter, Doinik Somoyer Alo), Jahedul Islam Majumder (Senior Reporter, Ekattar TV), Salauddin Bablu (Business Editor, SA TV) and others participated in the open discussion. WBB Trust officials were also presented on the occasion.