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'Cigarette tax structure in BD far below int'l standard'

FE Report | December 20, 2020 00:00:00

Bangladesh's score on current cigarette prices and tax structure is slightly higher than global average although it is far below standard international best practices, according to Tobacconomics Cigarette Tax Scorecard.

The country has scored 2.38 out of five possible points against global average 2.07 while it is 4.63 in the top performing countries, said a study.

Tobacconomics, a US-based research initiative, revealed the findings of the study in its first edition of the International Cigarette Tax Scorecard released on Saturday.

It has assessed the performance of cigarette tax policies in over 170 countries including Bangladesh.

Tobacconomics is based at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Institute for Health Research and Policy and it conducts economic research to inform and shape fiscal policies for health globally.

Local advocacy organisation Progga shared the findings of the study in a press statement on Saturday.

"There is ample room to improve when compared to the top performing countries," the study report said.

The top performing countries are Australia and New Zealand, which reflects their high, uniform specific cigarette excise taxes with regular increases that have significantly reduced the affordability of cigarettes, it added.

The Tobacconomics Scorecard assesses countries' cigarette tax policies based on international best practice using the data from the World Health Organization from 2014-2018.

Nearly half the countries scored less than two out of the five-point maximum.

There has been little improvement between 2014 and 2018. The global average score rose only slightly from 1.85 in 2014 to 2.07 in 2018.

The Cigarette Tax Scorecard has been created by the University of Illinois Chicago's (UIC) Institute for Health Research and Policy.

Bangladesh had significantly improved its score on cigarette taxation policy from 0.87 in 2014 to 2.38 in 2018 but improvements are needed in the tax structure and prices of cigarettes, the study said.

"The scorecard shows considerable untapped potential for cigarette tax increases to raise revenue for a COVID-19 recovery and importantly, prevent premature deaths and promote a healthy and productive workforce," Tobacconomics director and lead author of the scorecard, Frank J. Chaloupka, said in a statement issued by the University of Illinois.

Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, eminent economist and convener of National Anti-Tobacco Platform, said, "The complex tiered cigarette tax structure in Bangladesh has significantly contributed to a reduced score for Bangladesh in this scorecard."

Bangladesh must reduce the number of tiers for the purpose of cigarette taxation, introduce specific excise taxes and significantly increase its existing excise taxes on all tobacco products to save lives and raise much-needed revenue, he added.

"According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lungs hooked on tobacco are at greater risk of COVID-19. In Bangladesh, 37.8 million adults use tobacco and 41 million people fall victim to second-hand smoke in their own homes. This huge chunk of population, victims of direct or indirect tobacco use, are currently at grave risk of severe coronavirus infection. Low prices of tobacco products are the main reason behind this," said Dr. MahfuzKabir, Research Director of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS).

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