Appeal for 28% Goods and Services Tax on tobacco items


PATNA: Ahead of a crucial meeting of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council on February 18, public health groups have urged Union finance minister Arun Jaitley to ensure categorisation of all tobacco products, including bidi, as ‘demerit good’ with a tax burden of 28%.

They have also pleaded for an additional levy at the highest possible rate on the tobacco products to curb their use after the GST rolls out from July 1.

Sources said the tax burden on cigarettes, bidi and smokeless products calculates to 53%, 19.5% and 56% respectively in India, which is much lower than the 75% recommended by the World Health Organisation.

“At least 10 lakh people die of diseases triggered by tobacco. It is high time the government took a firm stand,” Socio Economic and Educational Development Society’s executive director Deepak Mishra told TOI on Thursday, adding the government’s taxation policies in the tobacco sector have left public health concerns unaddressed.

According to experts, bidis are the most commonly used tobacco product in India, accounting for 64% of tobacco consumption. It is consumed mainly by the poor. “Bidis contribute to the majority of the 10 lakh deaths attributable to tobacco,” said an expert.

In Bihar, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey Report 2009-2010 (GATS), 53.5% adults (66% men and 40% women) use tobacco in some form or another. Nearly 15% of the young children in the age group of 13-15 use tobacco in smoke or other form while 27.4% boys and 8.3% girls in the age group of 15-24 use tobacco.
Mishra said heavy tax on tobacco will help change the scenario for the better. “We hope the Union finance minister will ensure a significant increase in tobacco taxation and decrease in the affordability of tobacco products while finalizing the GST reforms,” he said.

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