10 May 2017
PROGGA and the Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance held a press conference on 8 May to denounce the industry’s anti-tobacco tax scheme.
As budget season nears, Bangladesh cigarette makers are attempting to enlist the government’s National Board of Revenue (NBR) in a campaign to highlight the danger of cigarette smuggling, which companies say results from raising tobacco taxes. After a journalist with the Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance alerted FCA member PROGGA to the scheme by the Bangladesh Cigarette Manufacturers’ Association (BCMA), the NGO informed other partners. That led to further queries from media and public discussion of the issue. But this hasn’t dissuaded the BCMA, says ABM Zubair, executive director of PROGGA: “We are still in danger.” To counter the industry’s initiative the NGO held a press conference on 8 May.
Industry gets officials’ backing
Industry campaigning routinely heats up in the months prior to the June budget discussions. This year the BCMA proposed marking Smuggled Cigarette Prevention Week, and has persuaded the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID) of the NBR to back the plan. The CIID in turn sent a letter to senior NBR officials for approval of the Week. The tobacco industry has long argued that hiking taxes will result in a huge loss of revenue to state coffers. In reality, some of the countries with the highest tobacco tax rates also have the least amount of smuggling. In Bangladesh, says PROGGA, “smuggling of tobacco products is marginal (though we don’t have any recent statistics) and it is unnecessary to observe such a week, which will create a massive misconception about the border and immigration security”.