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Citizens groups demand higher tax on tobacco products

tobaccoFour citizens groups have urged the government to impose higher duties on tobacco products in the 2015-2016 budget to discourage their use.

They proposed withdrawing the tax-slab system on tobacco and impose a higher specific excise tax on all tobacco products including ‘biri’ and smokeless tobacco.

Economist Abul Barkat presented the proposals at a pre-budget news conference in the capital on Thursday.

Human Development Research Centre, Pragatir Janya Gyan (Pragya), Anti Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids organised the media call.

They also proposed that health surcharge on tobacco sales be increased to two percent from one percent.

“An effective way to reduce tobacco use is to raise prices by raising tax,” Barkat said from a prepared statement.

Higher duties and proper tax management would help reduce government’s high spending on health and increase revenue collection from the sector, he said.

A woman exhales vapour from an e-cigarette in Blackburn, northern England March 19, 2015. Reuters A woman exhales vapour from an e-cigarette in Blackburn, northern England March 19, 2015. Reuters The Dhaka University professor said the ‘complex’ taxation structure was helping the tobacco companies.

He suggested imposing a ban on sale of single stick of biri or cigarette and duty-free trade of all tobacco products.

Prof Barakat also called for imposing higher export duties on tobacco-leaf and tobacco product, and a five percent extra corporate tax on companies manufacturing tobacco products.

The economics professor presented the year-by-year and sector-wise proposals suggesting specific rates by which the duties should be increased.

He suggested a tobacco taxation policy.

“The country will have short-, mid-, and long-term benefits if the government consider the proposals,” he added.

Pragya Executive Director ABM Zubaer, ATMA Convener Martuza Haider Liton were present at the programme moderated by ATMA Co-Convener Nadira Kiran.

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