Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has announced to make the country tobacco-free by 2040. To this end, the government has included tobacco control in the Eighth Five-Year Plan. However, in the webinar titled ‘Tobacco Tax in the Budget FY 2022-2023: Expectations and Achievements’ organized by Dhaka Ahsania Mission Health Sector on the afternoon of June 12, those concerned feel that the proposed budget announced in the National Assembly is an obstacle in building a tobacco-free Bangladesh. In addition, the increase in the price of tobacco products in the proposed budget is also disappointing. Because if we compare inflation and per capita income, we can see that the real price of cigarettes has come down.
The webinar was hosted by Iqbal Masud, Director, Health and WASH Sector, Dhaka Ahsania Mission. Kazi Firoz Rashid, Member of Parliament, Dhaka-6 constituency and former Minister and Member, Standing Committee on Ministry of Liberation War Affairs and Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, Professor Dr. Rumana Haque, Department of Economics, Dhaka University and Convener, BNTTP; Prof. Dr. Golam Mohiuddin Faruque, Project Director and Joint Secretary General, Bangladesh Cancer Society; Md. Mostafizur Rahman, Lead Policy Advisor, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids-Bangladesh; Syed Mahbubul Alam, Technical Consultant, The Union; Sharmeen Rinvy, President, Economic Reporters Forum (ERF) and Sushanta Sinha, Special Correspondent, Ekattar Television spoke on the webinar. Md. Mukhlesur Rahman, Deputy Director, Health Sector, Dhaka Ahsania Mission gave the welcome speech in the webinar.
Sushanta Sinha said, in this year’s budget, the price of cigarettes at the low tier has been increased by only 10 paisa per stick. In our country, the National Board of Revenue fixes the tax structure of tobacco products. This should actually be done by the Tariff Commission. And the revenue collection should be in the hands of the revenue board. If this can be done, it will be possible to implement the tax structure of tobacco products properly.
Sharmeen Rinvy said that in order to keep low-income people away from cigarettes, the price should be increased in such a way that cigarettes go beyond their purchasing power. But we do not see that in the budget.
Syed Mahbubul Alam said, in our country, the consumer of low-tier cigarettes is more in number. However, the price of low-tier cigarettes has not increased significantly in the budget. This will increase the health risks for poor and low-income people. The use of cheap cigarettes will also increase. Besides, Jorda-Gul should also be brought under the tax to save women and the poor in our country.
Md. Mostafizur Rahman said the NBR had been given an additional revenue target of Tk 9,000 crore this year, which they could have achieved by raising tobacco taxes. But the NBR did not take that opportunity. Therefore, in the future, through the Minister of Health, we have to reach out to the Minister of Finance and the Ministry of Finance to take initiative to increase the tax on tobacco products.
Professor Dr. Rumana Haque said that if we compare the price increase of cigarettes in the budget FY 2022-23 with inflation and per capita income, we can see that the real price of cigarettes has come down. This is frustrating for us. This will not reduce the level of tobacco consumption among the younger generation.
Prof. Dr. Golam Mohiuddin Faruque said that if the members of parliament in the session of the National Assembly have a strong role in the issue of tobacco tax, the National Board of Revenue will not be able to reduce the increase in tobacco tax. That is why we need to be more tactful in determining the strategy for raising tobacco taxes in the future.
Kazi Firoz Rashid, MP, said that at present the prices of everything have gone up. Not only has the price of tobacco products gone up. The nominal increase in the price of cigarettes in the budget does not reduce the number of smokers. Therefore, if the price of cigarettes increases, it is seen that the companies also benefit.