Several experts have raised their voice for higher taxes on tobacco products in the state.
At present, the state government imposes 30 per cent value-added tax (VAT) on tobacco products. But the experts believe it should be 70 per cent and the revenue generated from tax revenue should be used for healthcare.
T.P. Sinha, national president, Cancer Awareness Society, said his association submitted a letter regarding this to health minister Ramdhani Singh on Friday.
“Every year, the state gets 1 lakh new cancer patients while around 70,000 people annually die of diseases caused by tobacco products. What we are demanding is the need of the hour. The government should increase the tax from 30 per cent to 70 per cent. This would definitely discourage people from tobacco consumption,” he said.
Sinha reasoned that by raising taxes on tobacco products, the state government would be able to generate more revenue. “According to the data available with the commercial taxes department, the state got Rs 102.13 crore revenue from tobacco products in 2010-11 while in 2012-13 it earned Rs 208.14 crore as revenue. If the state increases tax on tobacco products, it would get more revenue,” he added.
Sinha hailed the government for increasing tax on the tobacco products in the last two years. “The government increased the tax on tobacco products from mere 13.5 per cent to 20 per cent in 2012 while it further increased the tax from 20 per cent to 30 per cent in 2013. This move is appreciable but the government’s move to roll back tax on raw tobacco (khaini and bidi) cannot be termed good at all because raw tobacco is consumed by lower income group people. People belonging to lower income group do not have enough money to get proper treatment for cancer and other diseases associated with tobacco consumption.”
Surgeon A.A. Hai, national vice-president, Cancer Awareness Society, said the state should learn from Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh where the tax is around 55-65 per cent from earlier 12-13 per cent. “According to Global Adult Tobacco Survey, 53.50 per cent people in Bihar consume tobacco products against 35 per cent national average. A World Health Organisation (WHO) report also says that if there is 66 per cent growth in taxes on tobacco products, it would reduce consumption of tobacco products.”
Not only experts but also those who have to suffer because of tobacco consumption have also raised their voices for increasing tax on tobacco products.
Sunil Kumar Singh, a member of Voice of Tobacco Victims, who is suffering from oral cancer, said: “My oral cancer was detected in March last year. Since then, my life has completely changed. I have understood the fact that tobacco products can harm you to which extent. My organisation is trying to spread awareness on the ill effects of tobacco consumption. We also demand to the state government to increase tax on tobacco products because this would prevent many people from suffering from diseases which are associated with the tobacco consumption,” said Singh.