GUWAHATI: The Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum (CLPF), Assam said that the Union Budget has missed opportunities to raise significant revenues from increasing tobacco taxes.
Advocate Ajoy Hazarika, secretary, CLPF said, “Union Budget 2021 is a missed opportunity to raise significant revenues from increasing tobacco taxes. Unfortunately, tobacco products in India have become more affordable due to the lack of any major increase in tobacco taxes since the introduction of GST in 2017. Increasing tax burden across all tobacco products in a pandemic year would have given a positive message that the government is serious about reducing consumption, addressing comorbidity of tobacco use as well as financing substantial public health and social sector spending in the current budget”.
The Forum believed that tobacco taxes were the single most effective way to minimize the negative health and economic impacts of tobacco consumption. It said that the best way to do this was through a uniform specific excise tax that comprises at least 75% of the retail price and was automatically updated to stay ahead of inflation and income growth.
Munindra Narayan Barua, managing director of North East Cancer Hospital and Research Institute, Guwahati said, “The government could used tobacco taxes to finance a lot of public health-related spending announced in the budget while reducing tobacco use. Yet, it chose not to increase taxes on tobacco despite having done no major tax increases on tobacco for more than three years. This will only lead to more uptake of tobacco use in India as tobacco products continue to be highly affordable. Out of 39,000 new cancer cases that are reported in northeast annually, Assam alone contributes 29,000 cases”.
About 3500 people die every day in India from tobacco use and the economic burden from tobacco use amounted to Rs. 177,341 crores in 2017-18 which is 1% of India’s GDP.
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