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Lifesaver tag for Jaitley

New Delhi, July 11: Union finance minister Arun Jaitley’s proposals to significantly raise excise duties on a range of tobacco products, including cigarettes, has earned him the title of a lifesaver.

Jaitley, in his budget proposals, has suggested a 61 percentage-point increase in the excise duty on cigarettes — from 11 per cent to 72 per cent — describing it as a measure to mobilise resources. The budget also proposes similar increases on cigars, cheroots and cigarillos, and a 10 percentage-point increase in excise duty — from 60 per cent to 70 per cent — on chewable tobacco.

“Overall, it’s a very good day, Mr Jaitley will save lives,” Prabhat Jha, director of the Centre for Global Health Research at the University of Toronto in Canada, told The Telegraph.

A 2010 survey of tobacco use among adults in India had suggested that about 21 per cent people chew and 9 per cent smoke tobacco.

“The big target should be cigarettes which are displacing other types of tobacco use, including bidis,” Jha said after learning about the proposed increases in excise duties on tobacco products.

Jaitley has also proposed raising excise duties on raw tobacco from 50 per cent to 55 per cent, and a 5 per cent increase in excise duty on aerated waters containing sugar that have been implicated in obesity.

Union health minister Harsh Vardhan had last month written to Jaitley, seeking a “substantial increase” in the excise duties on cigarettes and other tobacco products. The current duties on cigarettes range from 0.67 paise to Rs 2.36 paise, depending on the length of the cigarettes.