The state government’s decision to impose a 12.5% VAT on bidis may or may not be enough to deter people from consuming tobacco according to activists. A study on cancer deaths in India published in The Lancet on Wednesday emphasised the role of tobacco in cancer deaths. In 2010, 42% of cancer deaths among men and 18.3 cancer deaths among women were because of tobacco-related cancers.
A priority for cancer prevention is tobacco control, particularly through higher taxation of tobacco products to increase the very low levels of cessation,” the study conducted by Centre for Health Research and Tata Memorial Hospital among others stated.
In the budget, which was presented on Monday, the state has imposed a 12.5% value-added tax on bidis, but left cigarette and smokeless tobacco tax untouched. “The increase in tax will not have an impact on consumption patterns. Ninety percent of the price of the product should be tax-based,” said PC Gupta, director of Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health.
However, other activists felt it was a good start. “It is heartening that the state government has levied this tax. This shows acceptance of the fact that bidis kill, like all other tobacco products,” said Devika Chada, director of Salaam Bombay Foundation.