Bidi workers demand tax, price hike of tobacco products in budget 2023-24


Bidi workers of Tangail district staged a human chain in front of the National Press Club on Wednesday (14 March 2023) demanding increased tax on all types of tobacco products in the upcoming budget for FY2023-24.

They came up with the demands calling the stakeholders to protect public health and to implement the PM’s pledge to make Bangladesh tobacco-free before 2040.

The bidi workers’ leaders in the human chain also demanded alternative employment for the workers to reduce the health damage caused by tobacco.
According to the World Health Organization research on tobacco use in Bangladesh, if the government reforms the existing tax system on tobacco products in the fiscal year 2023-24, cigarette consumption will decrease from 15.1% to 13.92%. About 14 lakh adults will be encouraged to quit smoking and about 10 lakh youth will be discouraged from starting smoking and in the long run, 4 lakh 88 thousand adults and 4 lakh 92 thousand youth will be saved from premature death. Reforming the taxation system through the introduction of specific taxes is recommended by the World Health Organization (which is common in most countries of the world). It will strengthen the effectiveness of the cigarette taxation framework.

Standing in the human chain, Lutfar Rahman, president of Tangail Bidi Workers’ Union, said, “We are constantly facing various health problems as we are involved in the production of tobacco products. We are forced to take up this profession to make a living. However, we want higher taxes on tobacco products and increased prices. Besides, we (bidi workers) should be given an opportunity for alternative employment.”

He also commented that to keep the youth from smoking, the tax rate on cheap bidis and cigarettes should be increased massively so that they are no longer affordable.

Treasurer of Tangail Bidi Workers’ Union Joymoni Begum said since the prices of low-tier cigarettes and bidis remain affordable despite repeated tax hikes, policymakers should impose specific and effective taxes.

“Increase the price of tobacco products by raising taxes to protect the health of the low-income population so that they go beyond the people’s affordability,” he urged the government.

Jasim Uddin, general secretary of Tangail Bidi Workers’ Union, demanded that the price of bidis should be increased to a minimum of Tk50 per packet so that low-income people are discouraged from consuming beedies.

Many more of the bidi workers took part in the human chain and spoke demanding an increase in the tax on tobacco products. Besides, they shed light on various workplace issues such as stopping child labour in bidi factories, increasing allocation to eliminate health risks, taking initiatives to prevent non-communicable diseases, increasing wages, etc.

After the programme, a delegation of bidi workers submitted a memorandum to the chairman of the National Board of Revenue.

It should be noted that Bangladesh is determined to achieve the goals related to tobacco control as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 3 and the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases. A tax increase on tobacco is a cost-effective measure to achieve these goals. At the same time, one of the most effective ways to build a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040 is to increase taxes on tobacco products.