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Annual illegal tobacco trade over Tk 94 crore in BD

Currently the illegal tobacco trade in the country is worth 38 crore and 40 lakh and the government is to lose revenue worth 244 crore, says a latest study from an international organization – Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) and Health Bridge. In line with the illegal tobacco trade in the country, the risks of organized crimes, drug trading and human trafficking are on increase. Besides, the illegal tobacco trade is also increasing the risks of tobacco-related deaths and leading the world towards the tobacco epidemic, says the study report.

On the other side, another research by PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) has found that around 26 percent cigarettes, bidi and 14 percent smokeless tobacco are sold illegally. Bangladesh is the marketplace of over hundreds of tobacco brands brought illegally from over 50 countries including Myanmar, Indonesia, England, Vietnam, Switzerland, Germany and other EU listed nations. Majority of the smoking tobacco products arrive by air and sea ports and almost all the smokeless tobacco enters from the land ports and smuggled mainly from India.

Besides, a large portion of the native production is marketed by evading tax. PROGGA report also says that not only the government is losing revenue and increasing the availability of the cheaper tobacco products, it is also weakening the impact of tobacco taxation. As a result the tobacco products are getting cheaper and its use especially among youths, lower level people and less educated people are increasing gradually.

According to Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2009, the rate of tobacco users in a difference of five years (2004 – 2009) has increased by 6 per cent (from 37% to 43%). Notably the number of tobacco users is over 40 million in the country. Sources said that illegal tobacco trade is a global problem and one of every 10 cigarettes sticks is sold illegally in global market.

It refers that 11.6 per cent trade in global market is illegal and as direct consequence the countries are to experience loss worth 40.5 billion US dollars. A 2009 study of The Union says that the revenue loss level is more in the countries like Bangladesh Studies over the illegal tobacco trade indicate that controlling over the tobacco production process is the key goal of the illegal trade.

Basically for three reasons, illegal tobacco trade occurs. Firstly, price difference, in some countries the price is cheaper and in some other countries the price is more. Secondly, the imbalance of tax rate and structure – in some states the tax is lower while in some other states are strict over the taxation. Thirdly, weak border management is another cause. Besides, the tobacco companies also evade tax inside the country and thus continue their illegal trade.

It is reported that if the illegal trade is stopped, the government will see a hike in revenue and tobacco-related deaths will be reduced. Following a study undertaken by The Union in 2009, if the illegal tobacco trade could be stopped globally, the price of tobacco will be increased overall by 3.9 per cent and its global use will be reduced by 2 per cent.

As a result 160,000 live will be saved annually and from the saved people around 132,000 belongs to low and middle income countries. Moreover, the states will be able to earn extra revenue worth 31.3 billion US dollars. Among the earnings, 18.3 billion US dollars will be earned by the low and middle income countries.

Additionally, since the tobacco price will be under control, tobacco use will be reduced, corruption and terrorism will be decreased, good governance will be established and overall interference from the tobacco companies on the government will be reduced too. The report also tells that around six million people are killed for tobacco annually and 600,000 among them are passive smokers.

If necessary measures are not adopted soon, the rate of the will reach to eight million by 2030 and 80 per cent of the deaths will occur in the third world countries like Bangladesh. A WHO report in 2004 points that 57,000 people die of tobacco use in Bangladesh annually and around 382,000 people turn cripple (and the number may increase in the current days). Illegal tobacco trade is increasing tobacco deaths and damages and leading the world to a tobacco epidemic.

To prevent illegal tobacco trade it is suggested that price balance between the foreign and local cigarettes should be made by increasing the tax, initiatives to implement the existing laws and creating social awareness against the illegal tobacco trade, its negative health effects, financial and social loss. As per the Section 15 of FCTC, following the protocol adopted in November 2012 to prevent illegal trade, directive are given over licensing, monitoring, tracking and tracing, record keeping, security and preventive measure, sale by internet, free zones and international transit, duty free sales etc.

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