PROGGA and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) jointly organized a virtual pre-budget press conference on 27 April 2021, to voice demands for increasing prices of cigarettes and other tobacco products through imposing specific taxes in the upcoming FY 2021-22 national budget.
During the press conference, eminent economist Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said, “I fully support the budget proposals to increase tobacco taxes and prices. The government must look for the welfare for the people, as dictated in our Constitution. Unfortunately, the government only prioritizes the revenue aspect, turning a blind eye to how it impacts the lives of the people.” Senior Research Fellow of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) and economist Dr. Nazneen Ahmed said, “Taxes at a specific rate should be imposed on tobacco. It will benefit the government”. She also added, “The covid-19 pandemic has created an opportunity for broader tobacco control. To utilize this, we need to make the harmful effects of tobacco widely known.” The Research Director of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), Dr. Mahfuz Kabir said, “Our tobacco taxation structure requires a fundamental reform. With that end in mind, specific supplementary duty needs to be introduced. The implementation of taxation and price related budget proposals, particularly in the low-tier cigarette brands, would significantly increase revenues and lower the health risk of poor demographic, considering the fact that 72 percent of cigarette smokers are users of low-tier brands.” Md. Mostafizur Rahman, Lead Policy Advisor for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), Bangladesh said, “We hope the National Board of Revenue (NBR) will adopt the proposals. It will increase the government earnings, reduce existing tobacco use and also discourage the young from initiating.” Professor Dr. A A M S Arefin Siddique, Chairman of Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) and former Vice-Chancellor of Dhaka University, said, “To hike tobacco taxes and prices, we can always follow the precedents set by neighboring Sri Lanka. We can progress through learning from each other. We also need to educate the youth on the detrimental effects of tobacco.”
The event was hosted by Nadira Kiron, Co-convener, ATMA. The budget proposals were presented by Md. Hasan Shahriar, Project Head, Tobacco Control, PROGGA. Among those present were also Mortuza Haider Liton, Convener, ATMA, ABM Zubair, Executive Director, PROGGA and representatives of anti-tobacco organizations and media outlets.
The budget proposals have been covered extensively in major leading newspapers (78 reports) and TV Channels (08 reports). Only English media stories are given below:
The Financial Express, The Daily Star, Dhaka Tribune, Newage, Daily Sun, Bangladesh Post, The Asian Age, The New Nation, Daily Industry, The Bangladesh Today, Our Time, Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS), United News Bangladesh (UNB), bdnews24.