The Delhi government has decided to withdraw the tax on hookah tobacco, although doctors say smoking a hookah is as harmful as smoking cigarettes or chewing gutka.
“It’s a step backwards for tobacco control and public health,” said Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss. “Raising tobacco taxes is the most effective way to cut down tobacco use, especially among young smokers who are very sensitive to a rise in prices."
The decision to withdraw the 12.5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) was taken after a group of people from Delhi villages, led by two Congress MLAs, Surinder Kumar and Balram Tanwar, recently met Finance Minister A.K. Walia and argued that smoking hookahs was part of the traditional culture of villages -- and hence should not be taxed. “Hookah is a part of the social life of Delhi's villages,” said Kumar.
“The question pertained to the sentiments of the villagers,” Walia said.
But Ramadoss questioned: “Even gutka is a traditional form of tobacco use. Does this mean that it should be also be exempted from tax?”
The Delhi government had imposed VAT on all tobacco products, except bidi, from April 1.
Dr Randeep Gularia, professor of medicine, AIIMS, said, “Although hookah smoke is filtered and passes through water before being inhaled, it is just as injurious to health as cigarettes.”
Smoking kills. Period.