Dhaka,  Friday
19 April 2024

Punishment of Tobacco Companies Demanded

Messenger Online

Published: 16:35, 2 April 2024

Punishment of Tobacco Companies Demanded

Photo : Courtesy

The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has brought to light a concerning trend of revenue evasion in the tobacco industry, despite prior notifications issued last June. Cigarettes continue to be sold at prices surpassing the maximum retail price, breaching government regulations and policies.

In a webinar titled 'Necessity of Implementing Maximum Retail Price to Increase the Price of Tobacco Products,' held on Tuesday (2 April), at 11 a.m., distinguished speakers highlighted the urgent need for enforcing regulations to curb revenue evasion in the tobacco sector.

The webinar, hosted by the Bangladesh Network for Tobacco Tax Policy (BNTTP), was presided over by esteemed panelists Professor Dr. Sohail Reza Chowdhury from the National Heart Foundation and BNTTP technical committee member. The panelists also included Professor Dr. Ghulam Mohiuddin Farooq, President of Bangladesh Cancer Society and BNTTP technical committee member, Advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin, a public health law expert, policy analyst, and Sushanto Sinha, a researcher on tobacco control.

Hamidul Islam Hillol, the Secretariat Manager of BNTTP, delivered the keynote speech, while the webinar was moderated by Ibrahim Khalil, the Project Officer of BNTTP.

Speakers emphasized that both small vendors and larger super shops are disregarding the maximum retail price (MRP) regulations for selling cigarettes, while compliance with MRP for other products. They pointed fingers at tobacco companies, attributing this disobedience to their influence.

Moreover, the speakers raised concerns about the unexplained profits made by tobacco companies through selling cigarettes above the MRP, considering it as black money in the economy. They urged immediate action from the NBR and the National Directorate of Consumer Rights to not only penalize violators but also recover the evaded revenue.

Furthermore, the webinar addressed the complexity and faults in the current ad valorem taxation system on tobacco products, suggesting revisions in the upcoming budget proposal. The speakers advocated for the removal of the word "further" from the proposal, aiming to prevent the exploitation of multi-tiered tax structures leading to higher cigarette prices and increased profits for tobacco companies.

Additionally, Speakers highlighted the Importance of Restoring 25% Duty on Tobacco Exports. In discussions regarding the reinstatement of a 25 percent duty on tobacco exports, speakers noted that such duty was previously in effect for cigarette and tobacco exports. However, it was subsequently reduced from 25 percent to 15 percent, and eventually to zero percent. This reduction resulted in a loss of approximately 400 crores in government revenue during the last financial year alone, an amount equivalent to the annual budget of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Medical University. Consequently, the restoration of the tobacco export duty to 25 percent is deemed crucial to safeguard public health.