A total of 121 physicians have demanded for increasing tax on tobacco products, including cigarettes, in order to protect public health through raising the prices of cigarettes.
They made the demand in a statement initiated by the Dhaka Ahsania Mission, according to a press release issued on Friday.
In the statement, the physicians said that the price of cigarettes in the country was very low while bidi was also cheap.
The price of most cigarettes has remained almost unchanged or has increased slightly although the per capita national income (nominal) has increased by 25.4 per cent in 2017-18 as compared with 2015-16, the statement said.
As a result, cigarettes are becoming more readily available and, therefore, it is important to increase the price of cigarettes through tax increases, it said.
Although the government gets revenue of Tk 22,000 crore annually from tobacco companies, the health damage caused by tobacco is worth above Tk 30,000 crore per year, according to the statement.
This year’s health sector budget amounts to Tk 29,000 crore.
This means that the amount of damage caused by tobacco is more than the budget allocated to the health sector, it said.
Only enactment of laws on tobacco control and reform of the existing tobacco tax structure can make the country tobacco free by 2040, as announced by prime minister Sheikh Hasina, it added.
The medical practitioners said that cigarettes were very cheap and readily available on the market due to the multilayered tax structure of cigarettes as per features and brands in Bangladesh.
As a result, consumers are able to choose cheaper cigarettes instead of quitting, and the use of cigarettes has been relatively similar in recent years, they said, adding that the availability of tobacco products must be reduced through tax increases.
They said that tobacco was involved in six of the eight leading causes of preventable death worldwide.
According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), nearly half of all tobacco users die from tobacco use.
Tobacco users have a 57 per cent higher risk of developing tobacco-related diseases such as heart disease, stroke, COPD or lung cancer, and a 109-per cent higher risk of contracting other tobacco-related cancers.
More than 1,61,000 people die of tobacco related diseases every year in Bangladesh.
The physicians who gave the statement include AFM Ruhal Haque MP, Abdul Aziz MP, Habibe Millat MP, Obaidul Baki, Arup Ratan Chowdhury, Abdus Salam Khan, Sheikh Md Abu Jafar, AMM Shariful Alam, Kamruzzaman Chowdhury, Md Yusuf Ali, Abul Ahsan (Didar), Md Abdul Mobin Chowdhury, Fauzia Sobhan, Suraiya Sultana and Mostafizur Rahman.
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