Harsh Vardhan for steep hike in tax on cigarettes
Terming the health and social costs of tobacco use ‘intolerable’, health minister Harsh Vardhan has written to finance minister Arun Jaitley asking him to impose a steep uniform hike of Rs 3.5 per cigarette so as to make their cost prohibitive and discourage consumption.
He has also sought doing away with tax exemption given to bidi industry to discourage their use. In a letter written on Thursday to Jaitley ahead of the general budget next month, Vardhan said the number of male smokers in the country has increased to 105 million from 83 million in the last decade and argued their ill-effects on health force over 15 million people into poverty every year.
‘I propose... a large but feasible tax hike in the 2014 budget on cigarettes of Rs 3.5 per stick. The tax would be applied to all lengths to prevent the industry (tobacco) from shifting production and marketing to lower length cigarettes, as has been the past practice,’ he said in the letter.