Members of parliament demanded the introduction of a specific tax system instead of ad-valorem and increase in prices of all tobacco products, reduction of the existing price tire of cigarettes from 4 to 2 and increase in taxes and prices of low tire cigarettes to protect public health. These issues came up during a discussion on ‘Increasing tax on tobacco products in the national budget for the fiscal year 2022-23’ at a virtual discussion meeting of the ‘Bangladesh Parliamentary Forum for Health and Wellbeing’ on Thursday, 24th February 2022.
In the meeting, Aparajita Haque MP said, ‘The current tax structure on tobacco products is very complex. There is not much profit due to the ad-valorem tax system and 4 price tires of cigarettes. We need to come up with a specific tax system. The price level should be brought down to 2 tires. Statistics show that if the tax is increased, the price of only premium cigarettes will go up. In that case, tobacco users are smoking lower-level cigarettes. So, the price of the lower level has to be increased.’
Former Health Minister and Forum Advisor Prof. Dr. A.F.M Ruhal Haque MP said, ‘The sooner we can work on raising tobacco taxes, the more likely we are to succeed. Because the tobacco companies are very strong. We also need to stay ahead if we want to raise reasonable taxes in this budget. At the same time, if any government organization does something against to increase tobacco taxes, we must resist it.’
Co-Chairman of the forum Shamim Haider Patwary said, ‘There is no alternative to raising taxes on tobacco products. By this March, everyone has to have a concrete idea of what the tax structure should look like. At the same time, it is important that tobacco companies not get any chances to interfere with tax increases this time around.’
Chairman of BHFHW Prof. Dr. Md. Habibe Millat MP highlighted a number of successes of the forum in tobacco control. Among them are letters from 153 MPs to the Prime Minister demanding a ban on e-cigarettes, letters from 152 MPs to the Health Minister demanding amendments to the Tobacco Act and letters to the Finance Minister recommending an increase in taxes on tobacco in the latest national budget are mentionable.
Along with the speakers, Adv. Sayeda Rubina Akter MP, Shabnam Jahan MP, Habiba Rahman Khan MP and Hosne Ara Begum MP also shared their thoughts. Secretariat organization of the parliamentary forum Shastho Shurokkha Foundation Executive director dr. Nizam Uddin Ahmed and director Rafiqul Islam also took part.
The Prime Minister has announced to make Bangladesh tobacco-free by 2040. At the moment, around 37 million adults in Bangladesh are using tobacco. Effective tobacco taxes and prices will encourage nearly 1.3 million adults not to smoke and deter more than 895,000 youth from smoking initiation. Will save the lives of more than 445,000 current adults and nearly 448,000 youth from premature deaths. Around BDT 92 billion tax revenue will add over the previous fiscal year.