Taking a cue from Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, oral health experts here urged Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to levy high taxes on tobacco products to curb the youth from getting addicted to smoking or chewing tobacco."Increasing the price of tobacco products through higher taxes is the most effective way to make addicts quit smoking or chewing tobacco," Indian Dental Association (Karnataka branch) president M.L.V. Prabhuji said in a statement here Sunday.In a bid to discourage smoking or chewing tobacco among youth, Harsh Vardhan Saturday exhorted the central and state governments to impose 50 percent value added tax (VAT) on all tobacco products to make them unaffordable.
He has also written to Jaitley to hike levies on tobacco products substantially in the ensuing union budget for this fiscal (2014-15), so as to act as a deterrent to millions of addicts across the country."On the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Bank has recommended a whopping 65-80 percent tax on tobacco products to prevent children from taking to smoking," Prabhuji said.The Rajasthan government levies 60 percent VAT on tobacco products."People from the lower socio-economic strata and youths are most sensitive to price rise but are least able to afford medical care when required," said Krishnadevaraya Dental College professor Murali Iyer.
As one of the early signatories to the international health treaty of the WHO, India is obligated to hike taxes on tobacco products so as to curb their consumption under the framework convention on tobacco control.
Lamenting that Karnataka was one of the few states to levy zero tax on beedis, made of tobacco leaf, and lower tax (17 percent) on cigarettes, Prabhuji said that even a 10-percent increase in taxes would reduce consumption by 9.2 percent in rural and 8.5 percent in urban areas.Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir are two states where tobacco products are taxed at 36 percent and 40 percent respectively."Increasing the retail price of tobacco products will deter youths from smoking or chewing and the funds generated from higher taxes can be used to fund oral health programme to create awareness on the harmful effects of such addictions," IDA secretary H.C. Kishore said.