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Speakers at virtual roundtable : Tobacco-free Bangladesh only achievable thru' strong tax, price measures

Speakers at virtual roundtable : Tobacco-free Bangladesh only achievable thru' strong tax, price measures

Staff Correspondent

The existing tobacco tax structure is hardly playing any role towards achieving a tobacco-free Bangladesh. Economists, journalists, and public health experts are now calling for effective tobacco tax and price measures in the upcoming FY 2024-25. Such issues have been raised on Wednesday during a virtual roundtable titled "Tobacco-Free Bangladesh: The Need for Strong Tobacco Tax and Price Measures", organized by PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA).

It was informed in the event that, between 2021 and 2023, the prices of essential commodities, such as sugar, potatoes, and flour (atta) have seen a hike extending from 40 to 90 percent. However, at the same time, the prices of tobacco products increased only 6 to 15 percent. This is because of the faulty tobacco tax structure.

Eminent economist and convener of the National Anti-Tobacco Platform, Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said, "There is no alternative to strong tobacco tax and price measures to achieve a tobacco-free Bangladesh. We hope, the government will take into account the budget proposals raised in this event."

Dr. Mahfuz Kabir, Research Director of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), said, “Raising the retail price of every 10 sticks low-tier cigarettes to BDT 60 from BDT 45 and supplementary duty to 63 percent from the existing 58 percent would certainly discourage cigarette use among the youth and also raise revenue inflow for the government."

It was also informed that the implementation of the budget proposals would generate BDT 10,000 crore as additional revenue. Additionally, the proposals, in the long run, will also help prevent the premature deaths of 1.1 million Bangladeshis, including nearly half a million youths.

Among the discussants were Md. Mostafizur Rahman, Bangladesh Lead Policy Advisor for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), Dr Syed Mahfuzul Huq, National Professional Officer (NCD) for WHO, Professor Dr. Sohel Reza Choudhury, Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Research, National Heart Foundation, and Md. Monir Hossain Liton, Head of National, Ekattor Television. Nadira Kiron, Co-convener of ATMA, hosted the event which was also attended by Mortuza Haider Liton, Convener, ATMA, ABM Zubair, Executive Director, PROGGA, ATMA journalists and representatives from other anti-tobacco organizations.

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