Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Demanding more funds to give a fillip to the National Tobacco Control Programme, the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry has suggested that additional funds collected through taxes on tobacco products be transferred to it.

Addressing a press conference here after inaugurating a “Regional Workshop on Illicit Trade on Tobacco Products” organised by the Ministry and the World Health Organisation here on Tuesday, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said he would soon write to the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister asking for the amount, collected through the additional five per cent cess on tobacco products, to be transferred to the Health Ministry.

The Rs. 500 crore collected would be used for the tobacco control programme which would be taken to district and school levels, he said.

This amount would also fund the scheme of finding alternative employment for tobacco cultivators, Dr. Ramadoss said.

The five per cent cess on tobacco products was imposed in 2005.

The Ministry will ask for an increase in overall taxes on tobacco products, specially ‘bidis’.

“Though 55 per cent of the tobacco products in India is bidi, as its manufacture is a cottage industry, most of the sales were without tax. We want to impose hefty taxes on bidis to deter people from using it and also use the amount so collected for tobacco control programmes,” he said.

The South East Asian region, Dr. Ramadoss said, was the centre of illegal tobacco trade as most of the developing countries were located in this area.

Around one-third of the global population lives in India, China and Indonesia. Thus most of the manufacturers and traders were targeting this region, he added.

The government along with the international community was discussing steps to combat tobacco trade such as restricting duty-free sale of tobacco, licensing the supply chain, involving civil society and training customs officials, he said.

The workshop is being organised to discuss the matter through a WHO treaty on tobacco and its associated protocol on the illicit trade.

It will assess countries’ capacity to control such trade and identify key actions in the region to support them in their efforts to implement measures to control it.