The Punjab government’s finance department has assured that value-added tax (VAT) on tobacco products, including beedi and cigarette, would be increased that would to “make them unaffordable for children and poor [and] reduce prevalence”.
This came about at a state coordination committee meeting where the state’s “multi-pronged strategy” for controlling tobacco and nicotine consumption was underlined by principal secretary, health, Vini Mahajan.
She also said that necessary instructions had been sent to the officers at the district level to ensure implementation of the Punjab Tobacco Vends Fees Act & Punjab Street Vendors Scheme strictly in Punjab to limit the number of tobacco vendors and reduce the availability of tobacco to children and the youth. Secretary, health, Hussan Lal; Dr Usha Bansal, director, family welfare; and representatives of various stakeholder departments, deputy commissioners and various NGOs were present.
Mahajan further said that the Punjab Street Vendors Scheme 2016 has been notified by the department of local bodies to issue licences to tobacco vendors as per conditions suggested by the departments of health, and excise and taxation. The Punjab Tobacco Vends Fees Act would be implemented by the department of excise and taxation, and would limit the number of tobacco vendors.
Hussan Lal said that the Food and Drug Administration has initiated various steps to curtail the sale of e-cigarettes too. Punjab was the first state to declare e-cigarettes as unapproved drug and court cases have been launched against the violators. Scented and flavoured chewable tobacco has also been banned.
State programme officer, National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP), Dr Rakesh K Gupta highlighted various legislations, notifications and regulations dealing with tobacco and nicotine. Dr Rana J Singh from The International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, New Delhi, said that global evidences show that, with increase in taxation, revenue increases, and also it decreases the use of tobacco. He also said that though it is necessary to book the guilty but the approach adopted by the implementers should be more to generate awareness than collect challan money. “Their sole purpose is not to punish the guilty alone but to work towards having deterrent effect and thereby reducing the tobacco use,” he said.