Cigarettes claim millions of lives every year, to be precise; the count is one million in India alone. All around the world, the numbers are much colossal. A new report by Indian, American and Canadian economists and health experts suggest that a rise in the taxes for cigarettes and tobacco goods is sure to bring down the number of causalities every year.
The report by Dr Govinda Rao and Dr Prabhat Jha of the National Institute for Public Finance and Center for Global Health claim that 51 million Indians alive today are likely to die due to causes related to tobacco consumption. This also has a large impact on the economy. The impact on the economy is by the reduction of the workforce. On an average, a tobacco user dies 6-10 years prematurely than people who do not use tobacco. This leads to a drop in the working population. The difference in working populations costs the government losses of up to Rs30000 crore.
The report states that the tobacco taxes in India are not regularly adjusted for inflation and over time, tobacco products are becoming increasingly affordable. The report claims to challenge the affordability of tobacco goods to the consumer in order to reduce the death toll of tobacco users. The report also pointed out that tobacco would be responsible for 13% of all deaths in India by 2020. It is estimated that without any proper steps from the government, more than 38.4 million bidi smokers and 13.2 million cigarette smokers were likely to die.
Cigarette taxes in India account for les than 40% of the value of the package. The WHO recommends that the tax on packs should be that of 65-80%. The World Health Organization has also projected that at this continuing rate India would take up the lead in the number of people dying of tobacco related diseases. This is currently highest in the under developed nations such as the ones in African subcontinent.
According to some of the number crunching done by the experts , it is expected that increase in the tax rate on bidis from Rs 14 per thousand sticks to Rs 98, and from Rs 659 to Rs 3691 for cigarettes should curb a large amount of the population from using tobacco. This is extremely vital as the majority of bidi smokers are found to b from below poverty line. They also cannot afford medical treatments in cases of complications.
Raising taxes on cigarettes and bidis to internationally recommended levels would generate more than Rs 18,000 crore annually in new government revenues that could be used to support efforts to reduce tobacco use and help bidi workers. The revenue currently earned by the government from taxing Bidis and cigarettes is only a fraction of this current amount and yet it is one of the major contributors to the economy. Various other health officials are looking forward to implement similar changes in the liquor industry. The liquor industry is the highest in terms of liver related problems and the second highest contributor of road accidents.