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MPs want increase in tobacco tax in the upcoming budget to deal with COVID19_Highlights on the MPs webinar

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National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh and Tobacco Free Bangladesh Platform jointly organized a webinar titled 'Upcoming Budget: Public Health and Tobacco Tax, Revenue Growth and Our Expectations' on 7 June 2020. Mr. Zahid Maleque MP, Hon'ble Minister, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) was present at that webinar conducted by Mr. Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP, the convener of Tobacco Free Bangladesh Platform.

After welcoming the participants, a keynote was presented describing the tobacco tax proposal, which was made in line with the recommendations sent to the National Board of Revenue by the MoHFW. The proposal includes:

  •     Instead of four price tiers of cigarettes, two tiers should be imposed
  •     Specific tax should be imposed on all type of tobacco products
  •     3% COVID19 surcharge should be added to generate more revenue to fight the pandemic

If the Ministry of Finance and NBR can implement these proposals, govt. will be able to generate additional revenue of around Tk 11,000 crore. In addition, price hike due to effective increase of tax will encourage 2 million smokers to quit tobacco.

In the webinar, Mr. Zahid Maleque MP, Hon'ble Minister, MoHFW said his ministry is working to implement tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040 as per the Prime Minister's announcement. Despite the decline in tobacco use in the country, about 37 million people are still using tobacco. He repeated the proposal on tobacco tax that was sent to NBR and emphasized on bringing out biri and smokeless tobacco products under tax net properly. Finally he opined- a part of the revenue earned from tobacco should be allocated to the health sector as it can be spent on the treatment of tobacco-related diseases.

The MPs who participated in the webinar supported the proposal strongly to increase the tobacco tax. Apart from increasing the tobacco tax, they also expressed an urge about other important issues of tobacco control. Below are the summary of their opinion-

  •     Tobacco tax raise is a must doing to accelerate revenue earning
  •     MPs should raise their voice in the parliament to impose specific tax
  •     Impose 3% surcharge on all type of tobacco products to fight against COVID19
  •     To save youths, selling of tobacco products should be banned around educational institutions
  •     Bann e-cigarettes
  •     Ministry of Industry should have banned selling tobacco products during this pandemic as tobacco increases the risks of getting affected by COVID19
  •     Tobacco products must be removed from essential commodities
  •     Stop tobacco consumption for a single day to realize and to consider how much money can be saved to buy medical equipment to fight COVID19.
  •     Provide incentives to the farmers to cultivate other food grains and cash crops instead of tobacco
  •     Allocate money to rehabilitate the labor working in tobacco industries
  •     Take initiatives to encourage farmers to cultivate food grains instead of deadly tobacco.
  •     Conduct awareness campaign on the risks of tobacco consumption among the mass people
  •     Developing informative educational campaigns, anti-tobacco advertisement, deglamorization smoker's lifestyle that could have a positive influence on our young generation.

Mr. Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP addressed that, without fixing the price of tobacco every year, a specific tax has to be imposed. This will increase the revenue of the government. The TIs hinder the tax process in the country. They have a strong connection with high officials. Unless the govt. divests its shares from BAT, the TI will always intervene in the tax process. He also mentioned that he will raise voice in the parliament to put tobacco off of the essential commodities list. Participant MPs harmonized their voice with this statement.

The webinar has been covered by a huge number of media stories in print and online media. Links are given below: