Levy tax on `beedi’, says NGO

May 23rd, 2008 - 1:52 am ICT by admin  


Mumbai, May 22 (IANS) A non-government organization (NGO), working in the field of public health in India and other developing countries, has demanded a tax on ‘beedi’ to discourage smoking habits of people. The NGO, Healis-Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health, in its report on various issues related to ‘beedis’ said these are smoked almost eight times more than cigarettes since these are affordable. ‘Beedis’ are Indian hand-rolled option of cigarellos, made from dust and flakes of dark tobacco, and rolled into tendu leaves instaed or paper.

The report said that ‘beedis’ kills more Indians than all other forms of tobacco put together. Hence, it was necessary to discourage people from its use, the report said.

It urged the government to undertake programmes to make people aware of harmful effects of ‘beedis’ as the users of this product are mostly illiterate, P.C. Gupta, director-research of the NGO, said Wednesday.

“There are over 100 million `beedi’ smokers in the country and the poor are most affected. `Beedi’ workers in India are exploited, and they earn as little as Rs.29-64 per 1,000 `beedis’ rolled, sometimes even less. Yet, there is little help that is currently available to them by way of education or assistance - moral, financial, health,” said Gupta.

The NGO conducted a special session on the menace of ‘beedis’ that was attended among others by Surendra Shastri, professor and head of the department of preventive oncology, Tata Memorial Hospital, S. N. Nayantara from the Centre for Multi-Disciplinary Development Research, Seema Sood from the Salaam Bombay Foundation, and Shoba John, programme director for south-east Asia HealthBridge Foundation of Canada.

Sood said the government should tackle the problem on three fronts. Educate the poor through mass campaigns and powerful picture-based warnings, increase taxes on `beedis’ - taxing them at the same rate of cigarettes, and prompt action to protect and assist `beedi’ workers.

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