GUWAHATI: A Round Table Discussion on Tobacco Taxation, jointly organized by Department of Economics, Pandu College, Guwahati and Consumers' Legal Protection Forum, Assam and supported by Consumer Voice, New Delhi, and held at Pandu College on Sunday, unanimously accepted that levying heavy taxes on tobacco products is one of the most effective roadmap of reducing tobacco consumption by the common consumers.
Economists, experts and the Government officials exchanged their views on the current status of tobacco taxation in details. Dr Jogesh Kakati, Principal of Pandu College, inaugurated the Round Table Discussion and appealed to the students' community to create awareness among the common people on the harmful effects of tobacco products on human health and life. Dr Mrinal Kanti Dutta, Professor of Economics, Humanities and Social Sciences Department, IIT-Guwahati, said that fiscal intervention in the form of imposition of taxes on tobacco products is justified. As of now, tobacco products in India are taxed at the maximum admissible rate of 28%, although there is scope to enhance the tax rate up to a maximum of 40%. Dr Nissar Ahmed Baruah, Professor, Department of Economics, Gauhati University said that though taxation is an effective tobacco control measure but taxation on tobacco products in India faces the criticism that it is not adjusted to the price inflation.
Attending the Round Table Discussion on Tobacco Taxation, Dr Mousumi Borah, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Arya Vidyapeeth College, Guwahati suggested that in order to control the consumption of chewing tobacco it needs to be sold in a minimum pack of 50 gm or 100gm to reduce its affordability along with the increase of tax rate on tobacco. Bedabrata Saikia, Superintendent, State GST, assured that the Government will impose as much tax as it can on tobacco products as per law.
Dr Rijo M. John, Associate Professor, Rajagiri College of Social Sciences, Kochi & Principal Consultant Economist, CTFK, Washington DC, said at the Round Table Discussion that India loses 1% of its GDP to diseases and early deaths from tobacco. For every Rs 100 received as taxes from tobacco products, Indian economy loses Rs 816. Ashim Sanyal, COO, CONSUMER Voice, New Delhi in his speech said that no increase of tax for last five years has made tobacco products more affordable and this should be corrected immediately which will generate more revenue and reduce consumption of tobacco products, resulting in less healthcare expenditure for the Government.
In his welcome address, advocate Ajoy Hazarika, secretary, Consumers' Legal Protection Forum, Assam said that in India the total effective tax burden is only about 53% for cigarettes, 22% for bidis and 60% for smokeless tobacco, whereas, the WHO recommends a tax burden of at least 75% for all tobacco products. Dr Angana Bora, HOD, Economics Department, Pandu College in her closing remarks said that tax rates on tobacco should be monitored, increased or adjusted on a regular basis, potentially annually, taking into account inflation and income growth developments in order to reduce consumption of tobacco products.
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