Himachal minister bats for budget for tobacco control

Shimla, Dec 6 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh Health and Family Welfare Minister Kaul Singh on Sunday stressed the need for structured response to the need to control tobacco with earmarked budgets and sustainable funding patterns.

Participating in the session on ‘Ttaxing health-harming products and creating health-promotion funds’ at the 46th Union World Lung Health Conference in Cape Town in South Africa, he said he had urged the government of India to earmark budget for tobacco control for all the states.

The minister said the state government had already been using the money collected as fine by enforcing COTPA (Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act of 2003).

“Till date we have collected 200,000 dollars by way of fines and are using them for tobacco control measures. I have taken up with the chief minister, who is also the finance minister, that some percentage of the VAT (value-added tax) collected from tobacco products should also be utilised for tobacco control measures,” he said.

Kaul Singh said he hoped that the state government would soon allocate more funds from tobacco taxes for tobacco control and the announcement in this regard is made in the budget for 2016-17.

The 46th Union World Lung Health Conference that concluded on Sunday saw a gathering of around 3,000 experts, including policy makers, from more than 120 countries.

Singh, who was on the panel with experts from Vietnam and the Philippines, showcased the success of Himachal Pradesh in tobacco control and said the state took pride in doubling the VAT on tobacco products from 18 to 36 percent last year.

“There is a lot of pressure from the industry to roll back the decision, but we stuck to it.”

The state government also faced opposition to banning sale of loose cigarettes, but did it, he said.

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