Budget missed to raise revenues from tobacco taxes: CLPF
The Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum (CLPF), Assam has argued that the Union Budget 2021 missed opportunities to raise
GUWAHATI: The Consumers' Legal Protection Forum (CLPF), Assam has argued that the Union Budget 2021 missed opportunities to raise significant revenues from increasing tobacco taxes.
The consumers' body has stated that since the implementation of GST in 2017, there has not been a major increase in taxes on tobacco products.
CLPF Assam secretary Advocate Ajoy Hazarika stated that, "Tobacco products in India have become more affordable due to lack of any major increase in tobacco taxes since introduction of GST in 2017. Increasing tax burden across all tobacco products in a pandemic year would have given a positive message that the Government is serious about reducing consumption, addressing co morbidity of tobacco use as well as financing substantial public health and social sector spending in the current budget."
Managing Director of North East Cancer Hospital and Research Institute, Guwahati Dr. Munindra Narayan Barua said, "Union Budget 2021-22 is a gift for the ITC and other tobacco companies from the Government of India. The Government could used tobacco taxes to finance a lot of public health-related spending announced in the budget while reducing tobacco use. Yet, it chose not to increase taxes on tobacco despite having done no major tax increases on tobacco for more than three years. This will only lead to more uptake of tobacco use in India as tobacco products continue to be highly affordable. Out of 39,000 new cancer cases that are reported in North-East every year, Assam alone contributes 29,000 cases."
According to Chief Operating Officer of CONSUMER VOICE AshimSanyal, "A golden opportunity lost by the Government to save public health and get financing from tobacco taxes for the health sector. Leaving tobacco pricing untouched for over 3 years now since GST has been a disappointing journey of the Government. Much could have been done."
The body highlighted that about 3,500 people die every day in India from tobacco use and the economic burden from tobacco use amounted to Rs. 177,341 crores in 2017-18 which is 1 per cent of India's GDP.
"The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created a major dent in India's GDP growth. Reforming tobacco taxes provides a quick and easy way for India to raise much needed revenue for economic recovery. Tobacco taxes are the single most effective way to minimize the negative health and economic impacts of tobacco consumption. The best way to do this is through a uniform specific excise tax that comprises at least 75 per cent of the retail price and is automatically updated to stay ahead of inflation and income growth," the CLPF Assam added.