Hike tax on tobacco products to stem consumption, govt told

Hike tax on tobacco products to stem consumption, govt told

Leaders of various political parties and medical professionals on Tuesday called for hiking the tax on tobacco products to check their consumption in the State.

At the Institute of Public Health (IPH) event, senior BJP leader Suresh Kumar, Malleswaram MLA Dr C N Ashwath Narayan, Loksatta Party state president Dr Ashwin Mahesh and medical experts sought hefty taxes on tobacco and commodities that contained the same to minimise their consumption.

Kumar said he had written to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to increase the value-added tax (VAT) on all tobacco products as that would bring down the number of people consuming them, besides augmenting revenues. “Karnataka should  emulate Rajasthan, which has followed the World Bank recommendations of 65 per cent VAT and improved revenues from tobacco taxation to Rs 900 crore. This is a golden opportunity to save lives as well as improve revenues,” he said.

Stating that India was one of the signatories of Article 6 of the World Health Organisation FCTC agreement, Ashwath Narayan said this was a single most effective way to encourage tobacco users to quit the habit, and prevent children from smoking.

Ashwin Mahesh said that in the short run, the government’s revenues from taxation will rise. In the long run, as consumption is reduced, it will directly benefit millions of poor people, through savings and better health that allows them to protect their families’ livelihoods. The government’s expenditure on public health will also reduce, as a result.”

While Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan have a record tax rise in tobacco products at 36 per cent, 40 per cent and 65 per cent, respectively, Karnataka stands far behind with 17 per cent on cigarettes and zero per cent on beedis, according to IPH.

BGS Hospital oncologist Dr Vishal Rao said the country contributed to the maximum number of oral cancers in the world. He said it was sad to see youngsters walk into clinics in large numbers when it is actually their age to play.

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