Health minister Anbumani Ramadoss has a solution to recover the money lost due to tobacco smuggling: increase overall taxes on tobacco products, especially on bidis.
“Bidis account for 55 per cent of tobacco use in India. But since its manufacture is a cottage industry, most of the sales are not taxed. We want to impose hefty taxes on bidis to deter people from using it and also use the amount collected for tobacco control programmes,” said Ramadoss, speaking after inaugurating the Regional Workshop on Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products organised by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the World Health Organisation.
“Since illicit trade in tobacco products undermines the efforts of the Government to raise taxes and hampers tobacco-control efforts by making cheaper products available, there is a need for uniform taxes in the region to reduce smuggling,” said Ramadoss.
With the workplace smoking ban deadline two weeks away, the health ministry has sent letters to all state governments asking them to enforce the smoke-free workplaces ban from October 2.
Never one to shun controversy, Ramadoss took yet another dig at West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. “I have already requested him to quit smoking and I do so again,” he said.