Health minister to push for higher tax on tobacco

Health minister to push for higher tax on tobacco

A month before the Union budget, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan suggested taxes on tobacco products has to be too high to deter at least a large section of people from picking up the deadly habit in the first place.

“Taxes on tobacco must be increased. I am going to make a strong recommendation to the Union finance minister,” Vardhan said, after releasing a nation-wide survey on the economic burden of tobacco that suggests premature deaths due to tobacco cost the nation about Rs 730 billion every year.

And this is only one half of the story as the report says the direct medical cost of tobacco attributable diseases amounts to Rs 16,800 crore annually.

As the report was made using 2011 data, it means India’s economic burden due to tobacco was a staggering Rs 1,04,500 crore in that year. “Every year, economic loss would be in the similar order,” said Sarit Rout, a research scientist at Public Health Foundation of India and one of the authors of the report.

The report says economic loss due to tobacco is six times more than the excise revenue earned by the Centre and 12 pc higher than combined state and Central government expenditure on healthcare in 2011.

Four diseases – heart diseases, cancer, tuberculosis and respiratory disorders – were mainly caused by tobacco. The researchers claimed that for the first time, they calculated economic loss for 13 large states using the latest population data.

“Karnataka not only fared better than three other large southern states but it is actually one of the better performing states, where economic loss due to tobacco is one of the lowest among the 13 states studied in the report,” Rout told Deccan Herald.

The cost of premature mortality is the highest in the productive age group of 40-44 years for both males (Rs 20,300 crore) and females (Rs 1000 crore). While males contributed 91 per cent of the economic burden, the contribution of women in economic burden increases significantly when it comes to smokeless tobacco.

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