The proposed budget for fiscal 2022-23 failed to take into account any of the demands raised by anti-tobacco organisations, and is in grave conflict with the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s vision for a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2041, it observed.

The proposed budget raises the price for 10 sticks of low-tier cigarettes by only Tk one, setting the price at Tk 40.

“It shows only a 2.56 per cent increase in this tier. Such an increase is negligible considering the fact that the National Per Capita Income (Nominal) has increased by nearly 10 per cent,” PROGGA said.

“As a result of this budgetary measure, the use of cheap cigarettes will increase among the poor and the youth. It should be noted that 75 per cent of all cigarette smokers are users of low-tier products, most of who belong to the aforementioned demographic categories.”

The price of 10 sticks of medium-tier cigarettes has been increased to Tk 65 from Tk 63, which shows a 3.17 per cent increase. In the high and the premier tier, the prices have been increased from Tk 102 to Tk 111 (8.82 per cent hike) and from Tk 135 to Tk 142 (5.18 per cent hike) respectively.

When compared to the 10 per cent increase in the National Per Capita Income (Nominal), it shows that such a negligible increase will make all sorts of brands more affordable and encourage more and more people to get hooked on this deadly addiction.

On the other hand, ignoring the anti-tobacco organisations’ demand to introducing specific supplementary duty will complicate revenue collection and allow tobacco companies to benefit from rampant tax evasion and others, the anti-tobacco campaigner said in its budget reaction.

The prices of and taxes on bidi, jarda, and gul, have been kept unchanged which is frustrating considering the repercussion of these deadly products on public health.

The low-income people constitute the majority of bidi users. Besides, more than 50 per cent of all adult tobacco users in Bangladesh tend to use smokeless tobacco products (SLTs), with the majority of them being the poor and the women.

“If we take the increase in per capita income (nominal) into account, these products have just become even cheaper and more affordable. As a result, the poor demographic, particularly, the women, will be encouraged to use of these harmful products and experience the heightened health risks associated with these products,” it said.

In his reaction to the proposed budget, Executive Director of PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) ABM Zubair said the prices of cheap cigarettes have remained almost unchanged, while it also lacks any directive with regard to introducing specific supplementary duty, a long-time demand of anti-tobacco activists.

“We demand that the government introduce specific supplementary duty and hike prices to bring tobacco products beyond the affordability of the masses,” he said.

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