Public health experts bat for adding COVID cess on tobacco products

Staff Writer@Blink

Bhubaneswar, June 11: At a time when the threat of the global pandemic of COVID 19 has created ripples in the Indian economy and put the future at stake, several public health experts now believe that adding COVID 19 cess on tobacco products can have dual benefits.

According to a group of health professionals and economists akin to the additional COVID cess levied by the Odisha government and states on liquor sales, additional cess should also be extended to tobacco products.

They are appealing for a COVID cess on cigarettes, bidis and smokeless tobacco products that can provide revenue of Rs 49,740 crores (497.4 billion) which could cover about 29 per cent of the stimulus package.

According to Dr Rijo John, Economist & Health Policy Analyst, Unprecedented financial resources will be needed for the country to recover from the economic shock COVID has created. Even though imposing additional taxes on the general public might not be a viable policy option when consumption needs to be boosted, special COVID cess on tobacco, could be a win-win as it will discourage tobacco consumption and reduce COVID related risks while bringing in substantial revenue for the government.

A Re 1 COVID cess per stick of bidis and significant tax increases on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products are expected to generate additional tax revenue to the tune of Rs 50,000 crores, he said.

“There is ample evidence about bidis being the killer and not the pleasure of the poor. These should be made not affordable for the poor to save them from a lifetime of misery and suffering. Imposing cess on all tobacco products, including bidis, is a winning proposition for Government as it will provide the much needed additional tax revenue for COVID 19 stimulus package for providing relief to the people of the country while motivating millions of tobacco users to quit and preventing youngsters from initiating tobacco use,” Dr Harit Chaturvedi, Chairman of Max Institute of Cancer Care.

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