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Higher tax may decrease deadly tobacco consumption

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Iqbal Masud :
Bangladesh is one of the largest tobacco consuming countries in the world, with over 46 million (43%) adults consuming cigarettes, bidis, smokeless tobacco, or other tobacco products and Bangladesh five focus countries of the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use (BI). Smoking is harmful for the smokers as well as others around them.  Non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) are subject to similar health hazards as those of the smokers. ETS exposure increases the risk of lung cancer, cancers of the mouth and larynx, stroke and ischemic heart diseases (IHD), chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), pulmonary tuberculosis, and Buerger's Disease. ETS exposure is common in workplaces. Smoke-free workplaces can create safer working environments, improve workers' health and enhance corporate image. According to the WHO Report 58% of all men and 29% of all women consume some form of tobacco, whether smoked or smokeless. Smokeless tobacco use is common among both women and men. 28% of women and 26% of men use smokeless tobacco. Youth tobacco consumption is a source of concern in Bangladesh; nearly 7% of 13-15 age group consume tobacco products. Bangladesh was the first developing country to sign the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in 2003. It has been a Party since the 2004. Article 6 of the FCTC requires that Parties to the treaty consider tax policies and price polices as a part of their overall national health policy and recommends that governments raise tobacco taxes to reduce tobacco consumption.
Government is committed to reduce tobacco consumption Prime Minister Hasina pledged the commitment of her government to work towards full compliance with the WHO FCTC and stated that overhauling tobacco tax was high on the agenda as the most powerful measure for reducing tobacco use. Bangladesh aims to be tobacco-free by 2040 at the first-ever South East Asian Speakers' Summit on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, held in Dhaka.
The Summit concluded with the release of the Dhaka Declaration - committing all signatories to work towards significant reductions of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Tobacco use is the main risk factor for NCDs.
Tobacco taxes are the single most cost-effective policy tool to achieve the goal of reducing tobacco consumption. Tobacco taxation reduces the consumption and increases revenue due to the demand-inelastic nature of the product. It is sufficient in raising revenue. Normally There is a large, captured consumer market paying taxes because they can not either quit smoking due to addiction, or are not price sensitive due to lower taxes. It helps defray the "negative spillovers" of tobacco consumption, such as diseases contracted by non-smokers and the costs to treat such diseases. Tobacco taxes discourage consumption more of the poor, the young, and new tobacco users, and provide opportunity for more productive spending and investment elsewhere. The World Bank recommends setting tobacco taxes to between two-thirds to four-fifths of retail price. Few low- and middle-income countries achieve this level of taxation, and most can significantly increase their tax levels.
Not only would comprehensive tobacco control programmes help us to achieve SDG 3, fighting tobacco and tobacco use would advance progress on many other goals, including: end poverty in all its forms everywhere, end hunger, promote sustainable agriculture, promote economic growth, and combat climate change. As emphasised by the WHO report released in July 2015, tobacco taxation is also the FCTC measure that is least implemented, so there is lots of room for governments to increase taxes as part of a long-term strategy to save lives and raise revenue for tobacco control. Trade should not promote or increase use of tobacco products, and they should not prohibit any nation from using its sovereign authority to protect public health by taking action to reduce tobacco use.  
Source: factsheet: The Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids and FCA
(Iqbal Masud is the Head of  Health Sector, Dhaka Ahsania Mission)

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