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PROGGA-ATMA’s pre-budget press conference demands increase in tobacco prices

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To safeguard public health, research and advocacy organization PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) have called for an effective hike in the prices of tobacco products in the upcoming FY 2024-25 national budget. The two organizations presented their tobacco taxation and pricing-related proposals for the upcoming FY today (20 April 2024, Saturday) during a press conference held at the Tofazzal Hossain Manik Miah Auditorium of the National Press Club, Dhaka.

In support of the budget proposals, eminent economist and convener of the National Anti-Tobacco Platform, Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said, ‘Tobacco products are becoming cheaper over time when compared to the prices of essential commodities which is an ominous sign for public health. Considering hundreds of thousands of premature deaths, diseases, detrimental effects on environment and ecosystem- all caused by tobacco, the upcoming national budget must effectively hike the prices of tobacco products to bring it beyond the purchasing power of the people.” Dr. Mahfuz Kabir, Research Director of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), said, “Currently 75 percent of total cigarette users belong to the low tier. However, the supplementary duty (SD) in this tier stands at only 58 percent. Raising the SD to 63 percent would certainly reduce the prevalence of cigarette use and raise revenue inflow for the government. The additional revenue would also play a major role in tackling the ongoing financial crisis.”

An analysis of the average retail prices of essential commodities in 07 metropolitan cities of the country (Dhaka, Chattogram, Rajshahi, Khulna, Sylhet, Barisal, and Rangpur) between 04 July 2021 and 04 July 2023, as reported by the Department of Agricultural Marketing (DAM), shows that price of loose sugar has seen an 89 percent hike in this period, the hike is 87 percent for potatoes, 75 percent for loose flour, 47 percent for pangash fish, 43 percent for eggs, 34 percent for soybean oil, 30 percent for powdered milk, and 27 percent for broiler chicken. However, during this same timeframe, the hike in the prices of different tiers of cigarettes ranged between 6-15 percent only.

The tobacco prices and taxation proposals presented during the workshop are as follows:

The retail price of low-tier cigarettes should be increased to BDT 60 for 10 sticks from the existing BDT 45, followed by a 63 percent supplementary duty. The prices of 10 sticks should be set at BDT 80, 130 and 170 for medium, high, and premium tiers respectively, followed by the existing 65 percent supplementary duty on these three tiers.

For non-filtered bidis, the retail price should be BDT 25 for 25 sticks. In the case of filtered bidis, the retail price for 20 sticks should be set at BDT 20. Both prices should be followed by a 45 percent supplementary duty.

Regarding smokeless tobacco, the retail price for 10 grams of jarda and gul should be BDT 55 and BDT 30, followed by 60 percent supplementary duty. The budget proposals also suggest continuing the existing 15 percent VAT and 1 percent health development surcharge (HDS) on the retail prices of tobacco products.

It was also informed that the implementation of the above-mentioned budget proposals would generate BDT 10,000 crore as additional revenue which could greatly contribute to tackling the existing financial crisis. Additionally, the proposals, in the long run, will also help prevent the premature deaths of 1.1 million Bangladeshis, including nearly half a million youths.

The panel of speakers in the event includes Md. Abdus Salam, Program’s Manager (Bangladesh) for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), Mortuza Haider Liton, Convener, ATMA and ABM Zubair, Executive Director, PROGGA.

It should be noted that 37.8 million adults in Bangladesh use tobacco products (smoked and smokeless). Tobacco claims 161,000 lives every year in Bangladesh. In 2017-18, the toll of tobacco use in the national economy (due to medical expenses and loss of productivity) stood at BDT 30,560 crore while the revenue generated from the tobacco sector stands at only BDT 22,810 crore.

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