'Increase cost of bidis, smokeless tobacco products, not cigarettes'

Increasing excise tax on cigarettes is not enough and will not serve as any deterrent to cigarette smokers, said anti-tobacco activists.

Besides, ignoring the bigger problem of bidi and smokeless tobacco consumption in the country will not change the way people consume tobacco, they said.

"The government has just increased the price of cigarettes, but this does not address the need of the nation. Cigarette smokers are well off and not a price-sensitive community. It is only increasing the price of bidi and smokeless tobacco such as khaini, zarda, which will reduce consumption," said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, associate professor, Tata Memorial Hospital.

As per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2010, about 85% tobacco users in India use smokeless tobacco. Of the 15% users who indulge in smoking tobacco, 10% use bidis and 5% use cigarettes.

As per the WB recommendations, increasing the tax of cigarettes by at least 65% would be effective.

"This increase is still very small. Besides, they are still leaving out bidi, which is the least expensive and most damaging," said Dr PC Gupta, director, Healis Seksaria Institute for Public Research, Navi Mumbai.

Currently, a cigarette packet (10 sticks) costs about Rs. 40-100 and bidi is about Rs. 5-10 per packet (20 sticks).

 

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