Karnataka Anti-Tobacco Alliance Calls for Higher Tobacco Taxes

Karnataka Anti-Tobacco Alliance Calls for Higher Tobacco Taxes
CFTFK and KNOT are alliances in Karnataka promoting cancer prevention, youth protection, and tobacco control, urging for increased tobacco taxes.

The Karnataka State Tobacco Control Board (KSTCB) and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) have come together to form an alliance dedicated to cancer prevention, youth protection, and tobacco control. On Monday, they urged Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to increase taxes on all tobacco products in India and to include this initiative in the 2023 budget.

They also sent a letter to the members of parliament in Karnataka, urging them to take measures to increase taxes on tobacco products such as cigarettes, bidis, and chewing tobacco.

Currently, cigarettes only carry a total tax burden of 53%, compared to 22% for roll-your-own tobacco and 60% for smokeless tobacco. "We recommend that the federal government increase taxes on tobacco products in the 2023-24 budget, as tobacco products have become more affordable in recent years.

This is one of the most powerful but underutilized tools for controlling tobacco use. Increasing taxes threefold could potentially double revenue and halve tobacco consumption. It's a great opportunity to levy additional taxes on tobacco to reduce affordability and decrease consumption," stated a member of the Karnataka government's Tobacco Control Senior Committee.

Since the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax regime, tobacco taxes have not seen a significant increase. However, in the 2022-23 budget, the government could have raised the consumption tax on tobacco products and used the additional revenue to improve public health and establish alternative livelihoods for those who depend on tobacco. Increasing tobacco taxes is necessary to keep young people and vulnerable groups away from tobacco. Therefore, we demand that the government increase tobacco taxes, said renowned economist and former director of the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Professor RS Deshpande.

A recent report by the parliamentary standing committee on health and family welfare has noted that tobacco is the leading cause of cancer and that nearly 50% of cancer cases in India are attributed to it. The report, titled "Cancer Care Programme and Management: Prevention, Diagnosis, Research and Affordability of Cancer Treatment," highlights the importance of curtailing the use of tobacco, which the committee believes typically begins during adolescence when young people are not yet fully capable of making rational decisions. The report underscores the need for prevention measures to help reduce the burden of cancer.

According to the report, tobacco products in India have the lowest costs, so it recommends increasing taxes on all tobacco products. This not only prevents easy accessibility but also generates additional revenue as taxes can be used for prevention plans. "The convenor of the Smokeless Tobacco Karnataka Alliance, AS JChander, said.

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