Tobacco will be cheaper and more readily available

If the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2024-25 is passed, tobacco products will be cheaper and more readily available. The poor and young population will be particularly encouraged to use tobacco. Research and advocacy organization Pragya (Knowledge for Progress) said it would increase tobacco-related deaths.

The organization announced this information in a press release on Thursday (June 6) in response to the immediate budget.

According to the circular, in the proposed budget, the retail price of 10 cigarettes at the lower level has been increased from Tk 45 to Tk 50. That is, the price of each shalaka has been increased by only fifty paisa (11.11 percent). Supplementary duty has been increased by only 2 percent from 58 to 60 percent.

In the proposed budget, the price of 10 shalaqa cigarettes will be increased from Tk 67 to Tk 70 (4.48 per cent), high level from Tk 113 to Tk 120 (6.19 per cent) and premium or ultra high level 10 shalaka from Tk 150 to Tk 160 (6 .67 percent) has been determined. Supplementary duty has been increased by only 0.5 percent from 65 to 65.5 percent in all these three tiers. The retail price of jorda and gul per ten grams has been increased by Rs 3 (6.67 per cent) and Rs 2 (8.7 per cent) respectively and the supplementary duty has been kept unchanged in both cases. Again, bidi prices and tax rates have been kept unchanged.

According to the information published on the website of the Department of Agriculture Marketing, the price of several essential products including sugar, potato, flour has increased from 40 percent to almost 90 percent in 2023 compared to 2021. But in the proposed budget, the price of tobacco products has been increased from 4.48 percent to 11.11 percent. The bidi prices have been kept unchanged. As a result, tobacco products will become cheaper compared to everyday products.

As the proposed price increase is smaller than the increase in per capita income, all types of tobacco products will be more affordable. This will increase the incidence of tobacco-related illnesses and increase the government’s health expenditure. According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics data (temporary), the per capita income of the people has increased by about 12 percent in the financial year 2023-24 compared to 2022-23.

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The third report of the Tobacconomics Cigarette Tax Score Card, released recently, has revealed a grim picture of cigarette availability in Bangladesh. The Cigarette Tax Score Card is created based on four factors: price, availability, tax structure and share of tax in retail price. Bangladesh’s overall score is only 1.13 out of 5, which was 2.38 earlier. Bangladesh’s score has halved mainly due to getting zero in accessibility. The tobacco economics team at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health published the report based on data from 170 countries.

Reacting to the proposed budget, executive director of Pragya (Knowledge for Progress) ABM Zubair said the retail price and supplementary duty of low-priced cigarettes, which hold 75 percent of the cigarette market, have been increased marginally. A retail price of at least Tk 60 and a supplementary duty of 63 percent will reduce the availability of this class of cigarettes. This will protect the youth population and the revenue of the government will increase several times.