Media advocacy for building support for taxation of all tobacco products at the highest rate under the new Goods & Service Tax (GST) regime
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Voluntary Health Association of India, India
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A689
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Background and challenges to implementation:
Article 6 of the FCTC enlists price and tax measures as an essential strategy for reducing demand for tobacco products. Raising taxes on tobacco is the single most effective way to encourage tobacco users to quit and prevent youth from starting tobacco use.
Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a new system of taxation in India aims to streamline the taxation structure in the country and replace the complete range of indirect taxes with a singular GST to simplify the taxation procedure. Tobacco products should be subjected to the highest level of tax under GST (28% + cess) with no segmentation.

Intervention or response:
VHAI engaged the media through press releases, Op-eds and keeping the media updated with the developments happening at policy level. One to one interactions were held with the journalists covering health and financial news. Social media was used as a tool for outreach through twitter and Facebook.

Results and lessons learnt:
Over 563 earned media stories on GST generated by VHAI during the period from March 2016 - June 2017. Timely Op-Eds in key national dailies on tobacco taxation, media outreach nationwide for higher taxes and cess on tobacco covered in all the national dailies and 13 vernaculars. As a result, tobacco is taxed at the highest demerit rate of 28% + Cess.

Conclusions and key recommendations:
Keeping the tobacco products at the highest GST rate - 28 percent plus higher cess will have a major impact on the prices of the tobacco products which will encourage users to quit and youth from taking up this habit.

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