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150 doctors demand strengthening tobacco control laws and increasing prices and taxes on tobacco products

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Prominent cancer specialists, along with the 150 doctors from Ahsania Mission Cancer and General Hospital, have urged the government to strengthen tobacco control laws and increase taxes on tobacco products for the sake of public health in a joint statement. The statement, signed by notable experts such as Professor Dr. M. A. Hai, Director of Bangladesh Cancer Society Hospital and Welfare Home; Professor Dr. Golam Mohiuddin Faruque, President of Bangladesh Cancer Society; Professor Dr. Syed Akram Hossain, Senior Consultant of Clinical Oncology and Radiotherapy at Square Hospital; and Professor Dr. A. M. M. Shariful Alam, Senior Consultant and Department Head of Clinical Oncology at Ahsania Mission Cancer and General Hospital.

According to the statement, tobacco use is linked to various health risks, including cancer, heart attacks, strokes, respiratory problems, and digestive issues, along with other physical complications. Despite awareness of these risks, a significant portion of the adult population in Bangladesh continues to use tobacco products. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) reports that approximately 35.3% of adults in Bangladesh use tobacco products, with nearly 38.4 million adults being exposed to secondhand smoke in various public places, workplaces, and public transportation.

According to recent data of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, in the last five years (2019-2023), the per capita income of Bangladesh increased by 643 dollars to 2 thousand 765 dollars. However, most of the cigarette prices have either remained almost unchanged or increased slightly. As a result, the real price of cigarettes has decreased. This makes cigarettes more accessible. On the other hand, single-stick sales of bidi-cigarettes are also making tobacco products more accessible. As a result, the tendency of smoking among teenagers and young people is gradually increasing. On the other hand, people with low incomes are not discouraged from smoking but are encouraged. Thus they are exposed to both financial and physical risks. If it is not brought under control now, it will be impossible to reduce tobacco use to zero by 2040.

In such a situation, single-stick sales of Bidi-cigarettes should be banned by law. It is banned in many countries of the world. This can also be done by amending existing tobacco control laws. It should be implemented now. It is also important to increase the price of cigarettes through effective taxation. In this situation, to protect public health from the negative effects of tobacco, the following specific proposals for increasing tobacco taxes and prices in the upcoming budget for the fiscal year 2024-25 are to increase the price of per 10-stick low-tier cigarettes from 45 to 60 tk., medium-tier from 67 to 80 tk., high-tier from 113 to 130 tk. and fixing the price of per 10 premium cigarettes to 170 taka from 150 taka. Imposing a supplementary duty of 65% on other tiers and at least 63% on lower tier cigarettes; Fixing the retail price of unfiltered 25 stick Bidis at 25 takas and imposing a supplementary duty of 45%; Imposing a supplementary duty of 60% fixing the retail price of Jorda at 55 takas per 10 gm, and Gul at 30 takas per 10 gm.

75% of the current users are consumers of low-tier cigarettes. While the supplementary duty rate at this level is only 58 percent, increasing it to at least 63 percent would reduce cigarette consumption, especially among young and low-income consumers, and increase revenue. This increased revenue will contribute significantly to addressing the ongoing financial crisis.

They opined that it is urgent to increase the price of tobacco products by making the tobacco control law stronger and increasing taxes effectively to discourage smokers from using tobacco products. They also said in the statement that there is no alternative to making the tobacco control law more stringent and reforming the existing tax structure of tobacco products to make the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s promise of ‘tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040’ a reality.

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