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India smokers fume over cigarette tax hike

Smokers in India have been left fuming, after the government announced a hike in “sin taxes” for cigarettes in its latest budget. The government said the increased excise tax is an attempt to reduce tobacco-related deaths, but there are smokers who doubt the move will work.

NEW DELHI: Smokers in India have been left fuming, after the government announced a double-digit hike in “sin taxes” for cigarettes in its latest budget. The government said the increased excise tax is an attempt to reduce tobacco-related deaths in the country.

A pack of cigarettes, which used to cost US$10, will now cost 20 per cent more, burning a deeper hole in the pockets of both smokers and sellers. This came after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently moved to increase the excise duty by 11 per cent to 72 per cent.

Cigarette seller Bipin Kumar Tandon said: "Cigarette sales have gone down by almost 25 per cent, because of the government's tax hike."

With an estimated 1.5 million lives lost annually to smoking, the government hopes that the newly-revised tax can change that.

Medical practitioner Dr C P Singh said: "More than 90 per cent of cancer-related cases in India have a history of smoking. The government should create more awareness. Smokers should be counselled about the dangerous effects of smoking."

Yet some tobacco addicts saw little sense in the move.

Smoker Pradeep Aggarwal said: "If I smoke a cigarette pack worth US$3, then there are US$1 packs also available in the market. People will start smoking cheaper cigarettes, and whatever they can afford."

Concerns have also been raised that the measure might impact the livelihoods of tobacco farmers.

But health experts argued that if the hike succeeds, the health benefits accrued will far outweigh any revenue lost by the tobacco industry.

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