Bangladesh lagging far behind toppers in cigarette tax scorecard

Bangladesh is still lagging behind the top-performing countries and scored 2.63 on a scale of 5 in 2021 in the Cigarette Tax Scorecard, an initiative of the Tobacconomics programme of the University of Illinois Chicago, which assessed the performance of cigarette tax policies in 160 countries.

New Zealand and Ecuador jointly topped the index, with a score of 4.63, followed by the United Kingdom and Canada, with scores of 4.38 and 4.25, respectively.

This is the second report of its kind, while the findings of the Bangladesh part of this year's report were unveiled on Wednesday in a virtual event, organised by anti-tobacco advocacy organisation PROGGA with support from Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids.

The latest report shows ample opportunity for Bangladesh to improve its performance by increasing the prices of cigarettes, increasing the tax share of price, and improving the existing tobacco tax structure., said a press release.

The report using data from the World Health Organization’s biennial Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic focused on four key dimensions of cigarette tax systems - cigarette prices, changes in cigarette affordability over time, the share of taxes in retail cigarette prices, and cigarette tax structure.

The latest scorecard shows Bangladesh performing better in 2020 (score 2.63) than it did in 2018 (score 2.38), the country has seen virtually no progress in cigarette prices and tax structure reform.

The study findings can help our policymakers to adopt effective tobacco tax policies, says Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, noted economist and convener of the National Anti-Tobacco Platform.

“The prices of cigarettes and other tobacco products should be hiked to bring these products beyond the purchasing power of the people,” he added.

"When it comes to cigarette tax structure, Bangladesh should introduce uniform specific excise taxes instead of multi-tiered ad valorem taxes and annually adjust tax rates with inflation and economic growth,” said Nigar Nargis, senior scientific director, Tobacco Control Research of the American Cancer Society and a member of the Tobacconomics team.

At the same time, taxes on cigarettes should be increased considerably, she added.