BHUBANESWAR: The decision of the State Government to raise value added tax on cigarettes, bidis and every other form of tobacco products has got the thumbs up from the anti-tobacco campaigners and the medical fraternity.
�The move would go a long way in not only saving a large number of lives but also effect reduction in Government spending on treating tobacco-related diseases, they have asserted.
�The State Government has increased VAT on cigarettes and smokeless forms of tobacco to 25 per cent from 13.5 per cent and also has gone ahead to impose a 10 per cent tax on bidis and the raw materials that go into its making from an absolute nil. The State has now joined the ranks of counterparts like Kerala, Gujarat, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal to opt for high taxation as a viable route for countering tobacco menace.
�Higher prices of cigarette, bidi and other smokeless forms of tobacco life zarda, gutkha and khaini have been found to discourage the youth at the initiation level. They also encourage addicts and users to quit the habit. “Studies on price elasticity in India have found that a 10 per cent increase in tobacco prices has led to reduction in bidi consumption by 9.1 per cent and cigarette consumption by 2.6 per cent,” manager of the anti-tobacco campaign organisation Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI- Aparajita) Itishree Kanungo.
�According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) India 2010, about 46.2 per cent of the population in Orissa uses tobacco in one form or the other. About 4.7 per cent smoke cigarettes, 6.5 per cent bidi and an overwhelmingly high 43 per cent chew tobacco in different kinds.
�This has resulted in very high incidence of oral, head and neck cancers. Orissa ranks among the states with highest incidence of oral cancer. “These cancers are being seen mostly among the lower income groups. Besides, the youth are also imbibing the habit further increasing the threat of cancer and other serious disease burdens as a fallout. The increase in tax is a step in the right direction and will help discourage tobacco consumption to a significant extent,” said Dr Sanjay Panda, surgeon, head and neck oncology, at the Panda Curie Centre and Research Institute.
�Taxes on tobacco products in India are well below the World Bank recommended rates of around 65 to 80 per cent of retail rates. With low tax rates, products are becoming increasingly affordable and thus leading to more than a million deaths in the country annually due to tobacco-related diseases.
�“Raising tax is not burdening consumer but saving lakhs of lives by decreasing tobacco consumption, Hemlata Cancer Research Institute Chairman and Managing Director�� Dr AK Rath stated.
The New Indian Express
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