In the upcoming national budget of the fiscal year 2023-24, the government must introduce a tier-based specific supplementary duty to raise the prices of cigarettes, said research and advocacy organization PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA).
The demands were made during a pre-budget press conference on tobacco taxation and prices, held today at the Tofazzal Hossain Manik Miah Auditorium of the National Press Club in Dhaka, said a press release.
Nadira Kiron, co-convener of ATMA, hosted the event and Md Hasan Shahriar, head of Tobacco Control, PROGGA, presented the budget proposals.
During the conference, speakers particularly urged the policymakers to hike the retail price of the low-tier cigarettes to BDT 55 from BDT 40 for 10 sticks, followed by BDT 35.75 as specific supplementary duty (65 percent of the final retail price).
It was also informed that, compared to other cigarette tiers, hiking prices at the low tier encourages the low-income demographic (users of such brands) to quit smoking.
Supporting the budget proposals raised during the event, economist and convener of the National Anti-Tobacco Platform, Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said, “As per the conditions set by the IMF for its loan package, Bangladesh needs to raise the revenue by at least an additional 0.5 percent of its GDP in the next FY.”
“This means an additional BDT 65,000 crore in revenue needs to be earned in FY 2023-24. By hiking the prices of tobacco products, a considerable portion of the additional amount can be managed. The additional revenue earned from tobacco products can also help the government tackle the adverse impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war,” he said.
Dr Mahfuz Kabir, research director of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), said, “Seventy-five percent of all cigarette users are the consumers of low-tier brands. Unfortunately, the supplementary duty (SD) imposed on this tier stands at a mere 57 percent. Raising the number to at least 65 percent would help reduce cigarette use and increase government revenue.”
The implementation of the tax and pricing proposals of anti-tobacco activists would raise BDT 9,600 crores in additional revenues and prevent the premature deaths of 4.88 lakh adults and 4.92 lakh youth, said speakers at the conference.
Mortuza Haider Liton, convener of ATMA and ABM Zubair, executive director of PROGGA were present at the time, among others.