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Doctors, economists and public health advocates have hailed the ongoing efforts of the Indian government on tobacco taxation and called for augmenting the efforts to achieve revenue and public health goals.

They welcomed the levy of excise duty on all tobacco products in the Union Budget 2019-20. Public health organisations applauded Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for bringing back excise duty on cigarettes, ‘bidis’ and smokeless tobacco.

They said levying excise duty on all tobacco products and retaining these in the highest tax slab in GST will ensure tobacco products do not become more affordable. This will provide a solid foundation for reducing tobacco usage among vulnerable populations and have a long-lasting impact on the lives of the country’s 268 million tobacco users.

Tobacco kills more than 1.3 million people each year in India, home to the second greatest number of smokers in the world behind China. Pixabay

“Even though this being a nominal increase, it sends the right message that the government is serious about reducing tobacco consumption by making it less affordable. WHO recommends that total tax burden on all tobacco products should be about 75 per cent of retail price. Therefore, there is still enough room to increase taxes on any tobacco products in India to reach the recommended rates by the WHO,” said Bhavna B. Mukhopadhyay, Chief Executive, Voluntary Health Association of India.

Most of the GST compensation cess on cigarettes is specific in nature and had not been revised for the past two years. This has significantly eroded the real value of tax and has made cigarettes, ‘bidis’ and smokeless tobacco products highly affordable, threatening to undermine the progress in reduction of prevalence of tobacco consumption in India.

“The government should bring uniform taxes on all bidis just like cigarettes and remove exemptions given to less than 2 million units and handrolled bidis,” said Dr. K Srikanth, Secretary, Indian Dental Association.

Hookah smoking is addictive and can lead to the use of other tobacco products such as cigarettes. Pixabay

“The re-introduction of central excise duties on tobacco products will pave the way for replacing compensation cess on these products under the GST as they expire in the coming three years. Hopefully, the government will revise these duties periodically to keep the affordability of tobacco products under check as the GST rates on these products remain fixed,” said Dr Rijo John, economist and health policy analyst.

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Refuting the industry claims that tobacco farmers are suffering due to tax increase as being unfounded and highly misleading, these public health organisations and physicians have said that if the industry is genuinely representing farmers’ interests, they should be ready to part with a higher share of their profit margins to farmers instead of exploiting them and increasing its own profits.

Tobacco kills more than 1.3 million people each year in India, home to the second greatest number of smokers in the world behind China. Approximately, 130 million people aged 15 and older in India currently smoke and roughly half of all adults are exposed to second-hand smoke at home. (IANS)


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On the opening day of the wrestling competition, Ravi Kumar defeated Bulgaria's Georgi Vangelov 14-4 on technical superiority to reach the last-four in the men's 57kg category, while compatriot Deepak Punia overcame China's Zushen Lin 6-3 on points to advance to the semifinals.

Ravi Kumar will take on Nurislam Sanayev of Kazakhstan in the last-four, while Punia will be up against David Morris Taylor of the USA.

Earlier, Ravi Kumar had won his opening-round bout by technical superiority against Colombia's Oscar Tigreros to secure a quarterfinal spot. Competing in the Round-of-16 bout against the Colombian wrestler, the 23-year-old Ravi Kumar, who is making his Olympic debut, showed no nerves as he dominated the bout to win by technical superiority (13-2).

Ravi Kumar landed attack after attack and went 13-2 up, winning the bout by technical superiority with minutes to spare. In wrestling, building up a 10-point lead over the opponent results in a victory by technical superiority.

India's 86kg freestyle wrestler Deepak Punia showed no signs of the niggle that had forced him to pull out of the Poland Open Ranking Series in Warsaw in June, as he defeated Nigeria's Ekerekeme Agiomor on technical superiority to secure a quarterfinal berth.

He got his Olympic campaign to a fine start as he was in control from the start of the bout and hardly ever allowed his Nigerian opponent any room to maneuver his moves, finally winning with a 12-1 on technical superiority.

Punia, who had also suffered an elbow injury just before the Games, was slow at the start but came into his own as the bout progressed, inflicting takedowns at regular intervals to earn points.

The Indian wrestler eased into a 4-1 lead at the break and extended his lead comfortably in the second period.

Punia, the silver medallist from the 2019 world wrestling championships, then set up a clash with China's Lin Zushen in the quarterfinals and defeated him 6-3.