1.61 lakh Bangladeshis die of tobacco use every year: Webinar

1.61 lakh Bangladeshis die of tobacco use every year: Webinar

Staff Correspondentdaily-bangladesh.com

Published: 19:37 5 February 2022   Updated: 19:41 5 February 2022

Cigarettes; File Photo

Cigarettes; File Photo

Around 1.61 lakh people are dying every year in the country due to the use of tobacco or by smoking. Besides, thousands of people are being crippled due to smoking.

Hasan Shahriar, head of the Tobacco Control Project, said this in a webinar titled ‘Tobacco Tax and Pricing Measures: Company Strategy and What We Should Do’.

At the time, leaders of anti-tobacco organizations demanded an increase in taxes and prices on tobacco in the budget to protect public health.

According to the World Health Organization’s 2021 data, Bangladesh ranks 107th out of 175 countries in terms of getting the “cheapest cigarettes”, the speakers of the webinar said. 

They added that the price of the cheapest cigarettes in neighboring India is “more than double” that of the cheapest cigarettes in Bangladesh. Cigarettes are getting cheaper in the country due to a lack of “effective taxation”.

Citing the World Bank’s (WB) 2019 report, the webinar further states that the illicit trade in cigarettes in Bangladesh is the “lowest” among 27 countries, at only 1.8 percent. So, the propaganda about “cigarette revenue evasion” and “illicit trade” is just an attempt to “confuse the policymakers”. Consumers pay almost all (96 percent) of the revenue from cigarettes as “indirect taxes”. So, it is not true that cigarette companies pay the most taxes.

On the other hand, according to the National Board of Revenue (NBR), the number of regular, irregular and contract full-time workers in the tobacco industry in Bangladesh is only 46,916. Owners try to get benefits from policymakers by spreading such false information about the number of tobacco workers.

Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) Bangladesh’s Lead Policy Advisor Md. Mostafizur Rahman, Bangladesh Country Advisor of Vital Strategies Md. Shafiqul Islam, Professor Dr. Sohail Reza Chowdhury of the Department of Epidemiology and Research at National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh also spoke at the webinar.   

At the time, the anti-tobacco leaders demanded to take tobacco tax and price measures to protect public health from the influence of the tobacco company.

The webinar alleged that tobacco companies doing activities with - DO letters issued by MPs to influence taxpayers, newspaper columns by benefited economists, media campaigns, so-called movement across the country using tobacco workers, letters to the finance ministry by foreign diplomats and the National Board of Revenue through various business organizations. 

Leaders of anti-tobacco organizations who took part in the webinar said the tobacco companies used various arguments against the tax and price hike to confuse the policymakers.