Duty proposals in budget frustrate anti-tobacco campaigners

Anti-tobacco campaigners have expressed dismay at Finance Minister AMA Muhith’s proposal to keep the duty on expensive tobacco products ‘almost unchanged’.

Liton Haiderbdnews24.com
Published : 2 June 2016, 06:03 PM
Updated : 2 June 2016, 06:32 PM

They said the budget placed in Parliament on Thursday had not reflected Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s vision of a tobacco-free Bangladesh.

In the 2016-17 budget, the minister proposed increases in supplementary duty to 50 percent from existing 48 percent for low-priced 10-stick cigarette packs and their prices to Tk 23 from Tk 18.

He proposed rises in the supplementary duty to 62 percent and 64 percent from existing 61 percent and 63 percent respectively on two premium segments of cigarette.

In his budget speech, Muhith said bidis were more hazardous than cigarettes and proposed higher duty increases on them than on cigarettes.

He suggested increases in supplementary duty on 25-stick packs of non-filter bidis to 30 percent from 25 percent and 20-stick packs of filter bidi to 35 percent from 30 percent.

He said the revision would increase their prices to Tk 10.61 and Tk 12.03 respectively from the present Tk 7.06 and Tk 7.98.

The highest duty increases -- to 100 percent from 60 percent -- were proposed for smokeless tobacco products, including chewing and powdered tobacco.

Referring to a circular of the National Board of Revenue, anti-tobacco organisation Progya said the highest prices of high-grade cigarette had been fixed at Tk 45 or more against existing Tk 44-69.

The prices of premium cigarettes have been maintained at Tk 70 or more, it said.

Pragya Executive Director ABM Jubaer told 
bdnews24.com, “Supplementary duty in these two segments has been increased by only 1 percent. So, there is little chance of price increase in these two segments at the retail level.”

He said the budget had not reflected the demand of the anti-tobacco organisations for a single-layer duty structure.

“The multi-layer duty structure has kept the scope to evade duty in place for cigarette companies,” he said.

In a statement, Pragya and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) expressed satisfaction with the increases in duty on smokeless tobacco but vented frustration with the small increases in cigarette duty.

“There is no reflection of prime minister’s expectation for a tobacco-free Bangladesh in it (budget). It will not increase revenue earning either,” it said.

Addressing a conference of parliamentary speakers of the Southeast Asian countries on Jan 31, Hasina had said, “We hope the use of tobacco can be eliminated in Bangladesh by 2040,”