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TOBACCO CONTROL ISSUE - ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 51  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 33-38
 

Smokeless tobacco product prices and taxation in Bangladesh: Findings from the International Tobacco Control Survey


1 Department of Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland; Department of Economics, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh
2 Department of Economics, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh
3 Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo; Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Date of Web Publication19-Dec-2014

Correspondence Address:
N Nargis
Department of Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland; Department of Economics, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0019-509X.147452

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 » Abstract 

Introduction: Smokeless tobacco use occupies a significant portion of overall tobacco consumption in Bangladesh. Yet very little is known about the effectiveness of tax and price policy in controlling the use of smokeless tobacco use in the country. Methods: The paper examines the price distribution of various smoked (cigarette, bidi) and smokeless tobacco products (zarda, gul) using the univariate Epanechnikov kernel density function. It estimates the own and cross price elasticity of demand for the most widely used smokeless tobacco product zarda using two-step regression analysis. The analysis is based on data from the ITC Bangladesh Wave 3 Survey which is a nationally representative cohort survey of tobacco users and nonusers conducted in in Bangladesh during 2011-12. Results: The price elasticity of lower price brands of zarda is estimated at −0.64 and of higher priced brands at −0.39, and the cross price elasticity of zarda with respect to cigarette price at 0.35. The tax increase on smokeless tobacco needs to be greater than the tax increase on smoked tobacco to bridge the wide price differential between the two types of products that currently encourages downward substitution from smoked to smokeless tobacco and discourages quitting behavior. Conclusions: This paper argues that increasing tax on smokeless tobacco simultaneously with the tax increase on smoked tobacco can have significant negative impact on the prevalence of smokeless tobacco use in Bangladesh. Finally, a specific excise system replacing the existing ad valorem excise tax can substantially contribute to the revenue collection performance from smokeless tobacco products.


Keywords: Price elasticity, smokeless tobacco, taxation


How to cite this article:
Nargis N, Hussain A, Fong G T. Smokeless tobacco product prices and taxation in Bangladesh: Findings from the International Tobacco Control Survey. Indian J Cancer 2014;51, Suppl S1:33-8

How to cite this URL:
Nargis N, Hussain A, Fong G T. Smokeless tobacco product prices and taxation in Bangladesh: Findings from the International Tobacco Control Survey. Indian J Cancer [serial online] 2014 [cited 2021 Dec 7];51, Suppl S1:33-8. Available from: https://www.indianjcancer.com/text.asp?2014/51/5/33/147452



 » Introduction Top


Smokeless tobacco (SLT) use constitutes a major part of the overall tobacco use in Bangladesh. The global adult tobacco survey (GATS) in Bangladesh conducted in 2009 found tobacco use prevalent among 43.3% of the adult population (aged 15 and above). [1] Although smoking prevalence was 23%, the prevalence of SLT use was higher at 27.2%, implying that there are more SLT users as compared to smokers. Considering the threat that SLT use can pose to public health, [2] the importance of controlling SLT use cannot be emphasized less than that for controlling smoking. Yet SLT has drawn relatively little attention in the tobacco control policy framework in Bangladesh. A previous study identified several policy gaps with respect to SLT control in Bangladesh including lack of statutory requirement to spend tax revenue on awareness raising; lack of specific policies to ensure routine dissemination and access to information; lack of technical liaison with relevant departments and organizations; weak or no regulation on production, distribution, marketing and sale; and unavailability of cessation services. [3] This paper identifies two additional factors that have contributed to the lag in the tobacco taxation policy initiative behind the encroaching tobacco epidemic in Bangladesh - first, lack of knowledge with respect to the absolute and relative prices of tobacco products (smoked and smokeless), and second, lack of recognition of the implications of the current price structure of tobacco products for overall tobacco consumption. Using nationally representative data collected in 2012 by the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Wave 3 survey in Bangladesh, the paper reports the findings on the cross-sectional price distribution of smoked and SLT products and draws implications for the tax and price policies for SLT products in Bangladesh.


 » Methods Top


Data source

Data analyzed in this paper came from the Wave 3 ITC Bangladesh (ITC BD) Survey conducted between November 2011 and May 2012. A detailed description of the ITC BD Survey can be found in previous publications. [4],[5],[6] Briefly, the ITC BD Survey is a cohort survey of a nationally representative sample of tobacco users and non-users conducted in all six administrative divisions of Bangladesh: Barisal, Chittagong, Dhaka, Khulna, Rajshahi, and Sylhet. The target population of the ITC BD Survey consists of users and non-users of tobacco who are 15 years or older. The Wave 1 survey, conducted in 2009, consisted of a nationally representative probability sample of 3111 adult smokers (cigarette or bidi) and 2660 non-smokers selected using a stratified multi-stage cluster sampling design. These respondents were re-contacted in Waves 2 and 3; respondents lost to attrition were replenished with new respondents sampled using the same design as Wave 1. Data were collected using face-to-face interviews.

In Waves 1 and 2, there were specific section on SLT use in the questionnaires of both smokers and non-smokers. Considering the overwhelming response on SLT use in the first two waves and the growth in SLT consumption observed in two nationally representative surveys in 2004 and 2009, the study team decided to conduct separate survey on SLT users within the recontact sample selected in Wave 1 and the replenishment sample thereafter. Thus in Wave 3, the SLT survey was introduced with the existing surveys for cigarette and bidi smokers and non-users of tobacco. In addition, data on retail prices of cigarettes, bidis and all types of SLT products found in the market were collected using a supplementary price protocol. This is a price survey that covered maximum five stores from each sampling area picked by the interviewers for the collection of price data for the available brands of each type of tobacco product from the retailer.

In all the waves, written consent was obtained from those respondents who can read and write; others gave consent with fingerprints. Ethical approval was obtained from the office of Research Ethics at the University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Canada), and the Ethical Review Committee, Bangladesh Medical Research Council.

Measures

Two measures of SLT use are used in the analysis - prevalence of SLT use indicating the decision to use SLT products, and the frequency of using SLT per day indicating intensity of SLT use. The status and frequency of SLT use are directly reported by the respondents.

The price per gram of SLT (primarily zarda) is derived by dividing the price per pouch or container by the weight of the pouch or container, as reported by the retailers from the stores in a locality. The average of this price variable for the locality (village) is then attributed to the individuals residing in that locality. The prices per stick of cigarette and bidi are similarly derived by dividing the retail price obtained from the stores by the number of sticks in the packs, averaged over the stores for each locality and then attributed to the individuals residing in that locality.

The respondents reported directly on household income, individual level of education, occupation, age, gender, marital status, and whether his/her parents and grandparents used smokeless tobacco or not. The area of residence and sample types were derived based on the sample design. There are four types of sample - national (representative of the mainstream population), floating (representing the slum area population), border (representing the population close to the land port at the border with India to adjust for influence of cross-border trade), and tribal (representing the indigenous population). These variables were controlled for to determine the relationship between the prices of smoked and SLT products and the SLT use.

Analyses

The descriptive analysis in this paper looks at the characteristics of the price distribution of cigarette, bidi, --- and gul using the univariate Epanechnikov kernel density estimation. [7] Further, we estimate the average price and excise tax per stick of cigarette and bidi and per gram of zarda and gul, and calculate the share of excise tax and total tax (including excise and value-added tax [VAT]) in the retail price of these products. It is important to look at the share of tax in the retail price for two reasons: First, higher share of tax indicates stronger government control over the prices and the use of the products, thus greater effectiveness of tobacco control through taxation; second, smaller tax share in retail price suggests that there is more room for the government to increase tax and collect more revenue.

The regression analysis involves the estimation of the demand function for the most widely used SLT product in Bangladesh, zarda, using a two-step method. [8] In the first step, using logit estimation, we estimate the prevalence of zarda use as a function of the prices of zarda, cigarette and bidi, household income, individual education, occupation, gender, age, marital status, use of SLT by parents and grandparents, area of residence and type of sample (national, floating, border or tribal). In the second step, using ordinary least squares (OLS) estimation, the intensity of zarda use is estimated as a function of the same variables as in the first step of prevalence estimation.

The coefficients of the price variables from these two equations are used to estimate the own and cross price elasticities of zarda use. The own price elasticity presents the degree of sensitivity of zarda use with respect to variations of its own price. The cross price elasticity, on the other hand, shows how much the consumption of zarda can change in response to changes in the price of smoked tobacco products, such as cigarette and bidi. The price elasticity of prevalence of zarda use is given by the marginal effect of price from the logit regression times the ratio of the average price and the population prevalence of zarda use. The price elasticity of intensity of zarda use is estimated by the coefficient of price from the OLS regression times the ratio of the average price and the average frequency of daily zarda use. The sum of these two price elasticities yields the total price elasticity of zarda use.

Two models are estimated for the regression analysis. In Model 1, price affects the prevalence and intensity of SLT use. However, anticipating wide variation in the quality of SLT products that is expected to reflect in price variation, price and quality indicator are interacted in Model 2. Thus, Model 1 provides a single estimate of price elasticity for all brands, while Model 2 provides different price elasticities for high-price and low-price brands.


 » Results Top


Price and tax of tobacco products

The price distribution of tobacco products in Bangladesh is characterized by wide differential between prices of various tobacco products as well as between prices of brands within specific tobacco products. [Figure 1] summarizes the level and variability of price across different tobacco products, such as smoked tobacco products cigarette and bidi, and SLT products zarda and gul. The prices of cigarette and bidi are converted to per stick prices and the prices of zarda and gul are expressed per gram. To the extent that the weight of a stick of cigarette or bidi approaches 1g, the prices per stick of the smoked products can be comparable to the price per gram of SLT products.
Figure 1: The kernel density of tobacco product prices in Bangladesh, 2011-2012. Source: Authors' calculations based on International Tobacco Control Wave 3 survey data

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Several observations can be made from [Figure 1]:

  • Cigarette prices demonstrate four distinct and widely dispersed bands ranging from ˂1 Taka to 9 Taka per stick. This price structure closely resembles the specification of four price bands into low, medium, high and premium categories of cigarettes corresponding to the four-tiered ad valorem supplementary duty (excise) rates applicable to cigarettes. In 2011-12 when the survey was conducted, the supplementary duty rates were as follows:



  • The most commonly sold cigarettes brands belong to the low price category, followed by medium, high and premium brands in that order
  • When sold loose, the price per stick of cigarette is on average higher and more variable than the price per stick when sold as a pack
  • Bidi prices per stick center around 0.25 Taka per pack and range from 0.10 to 0.50 Taka. As most of the market is occupied by 25 stick pack nonfiltered bidis, a pack of bidi on average cost 6.25 Taka in 2011-2012
  • When sold loose, the mean and variance of bidi price are higher compared to pack sales
  • One stick of bidi costs less than one-fourth of one stick of the cheapest cigarette brand
  • There are two distinct varieties of zarda available in the market - the cheaper variety that sells for ˂0.60 Taka per gram and the higher-price variety that sells for 0.60-1.00 Taka per gram
  • The average price of the cheaper variety of zarda is comparable to the bidi price per stick, while the price of higher-price variety zarda is higher than bidi price
  • On average, the price of zarda per gram is less than half of the price per stick of the cheapest brand of cigarette
  • The price of gul is relatively skewed centering around 0.10 Taka per gram
  • The average gul price compares to the lower side of the cheaper price variety of zarda.


Tax burden

When ordered in one scale for price per stick of smoked tobacco product and price per gram of SLT products as in [Figure 2] below, it appears that the average gul, bidi and zarda prices cluster at or below 0.50 Taka while the average cigarette price lies far higher at above 2 Taka. Applying the existing supplementary duties on cigarette at 55% of the retail price (noting that the average price falls in the medium tier), on bidi at 20% of the tariff value of 3.88 Taka per pack of 25 sticks of bidi, on zarda and gul at 30% of the ex-factory price, and 15% VAT on all products, the level and share (in retail price) of excise tax and total tax (excise plus VAT) are calculated. As shown in [Figure 2], cigarette tops both with respect to the price and tax levels and the tax shares. While the price of gul and bidi are close, the tax shares are slightly higher for gul than for bidi.
Figure 2: Retail price and excise tax per stick/g and excise and total tax share in retail price of tobacco products in Bangladesh, 2011-2012. Source: Authors' calculations based on data from International Tobacco Control Bangladesh Wave 3 survey

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Determinants of smokeless tobacco use

The use of SLT products can be determined by a number of factors including the price of SLT products, the prices of smoked tobacco products (e.g. cigarette and bidi), and individual and household level socioeconomic characteristics that reflect the preference of individuals including income, education, occupation, history of SLT use in the family, demographics, area of residence and sample type. To the extent that tobacco taxation policy affects tobacco product prices, it is of interest in the present context to learn what role the prices of tobacco products play in the demand for SLT products.

In the estimates of Model 1 in [Table 1], the price of zarda appears to influence the prevalence of zarda use negatively as expected. However, the intensity of zarda use is positively affected which is counterintuitive. Since the prices of zarda were found bi-modal in [Figure 1], it can be deduced from the positive and statistically significant coefficient of zarda price that the higher-priced brands are consumed more frequently than the cheaper brands. It is attributable to the fact that the higher-priced brands are better quality products and are consumed in greater quantity than the cheaper and lower-quality products. In Model 1, a single price variable for zarda omits the interaction of price with the quality of the product. In order to account for the variation in quality, in Model 2, we create a dummy variable that takes a value of 0 for products priced below 0.60 Taka and 1 for the prices at or above 0.60 Taka. It turns out that the effect of price increase on prevalence of SLT use is greater in Model 2 than in Model 1 - for increase in zarda price by 1 Taka per gram, the probability of using SLT reduces by 0.5003 for cheaper brands and by 0.1332 (−0.5003 +0.3671) for higher-priced brands. As expected, the use of higher-priced brands, which are usually consumed by relatively well-off people, is less price-sensitive than the cheaper brands meant for the people from low socioeconomic status. However, zarda price in Model 2 does not affect intensity of SLT use. It is attributable to the fact that zarda price is so low and affordable that the users do not care about the cost of an additional dose of the product.
Table 1: Logit estimates of prevalence of zarda use and OLS estimates of the frequency of daily use of zarda

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Cigarette price has a positive effect on zarda use prevalence implying that higher price of cigarettes may lead to greater use of SLT. The statistical insignificance of the marginal effect of bidi price indicates that there may not be any substitutability between bidi and SLT. Neither the bidi price nor the cigarette price has a significant impact on the intensity of SLT use.

Among the indicators of socioeconomic status, household income is not a significant predictor of SLT use, either with respect to prevalence or intensity. However, education plays a significant role in prevalence - the higher the level of education, the lower the rate of prevalence. Nonfarm agricultural wage laborers have lower prevalence, while students, unemployed and homemakers have higher prevalence of SLT use. Neither education nor occupation influences the frequency or intensity of SLT use. The use of SLT is more likely to be observed among women, older persons, people whose parents or grandparents used SLT, the population living in the border areas and the tribal population.


 » Discussion Top


Based on the estimates of Model 2, the price elasticity of lower price brands of zarda is −0.64 and of higher-priced brands is −0.39. It implies that 10% increase in the price of zarda can reduce its consumption by 6% for cheaper brands and 4% for more expensive brands. This reduction is fully attributable to the reduction in the prevalence of zarda use. It shows that a tax increase that can induce price increase is expected to significantly reduce the prevalence of SLT use among the Bangladeshi population. Note that the price elasticity estimates by lower and higher-priced brands obtained from Model 2 are much higher than the estimate of −0.09 obtained for all brands together. The downward bias in the price elasticity estimate is likely arising from the omission of the product quality indicator in the regression.

The cross price elasticity of zarda with respect to cigarette price is estimated to be 0.35 implying that a 10% increase in cigarette price with zarda price unchanged can increase the consumption of zarda by 3.5%. That means if both cigarette and zarda prices are increased by 10%, zarda consumption will reduce by 2.5% (−6% +3.5%). The positive impact of cigarette price increase partially offsets the negative impact of zarda price increase.

The positive and significant cross price elasticity with respect to cigarette price thus suggests that higher cigarettes prices can induce some smokers to switch to SLT products if the prices of SLT products are not increased at the same time. The wide price differential between cigarette and zarda is primarily the reason that drives the substitutability between these two products and the potential downward switching from smoked to SLT products. It undermines the public health outcome intended from a given tax increase.

Two important lessons can be drawn from the above findings. First, given the multiplicity of tobacco products and opportunity for switching between smoked and SLT products, the tax and prices of all tobacco products should be increased simultaneously. Second, the tax and price increase should be reducing the price differential between smoked and SLT products. As such, the tax increase for SLT products should be done at a faster rate than smoked tobacco products.

In 2014, the government raised the supplementary duty on SLT products from 30% to 60% of ex-factory price. However, the current system of levying supplementary duty as a percentage of the ex-factory price at the production level makes the tax revenue flow heavily dependent on the declaration of the ex-factory price by the producer and subjects it to tax avoidance. Therefore, a specific tax per gram of SLT products irrespective of the ex-factory price in place of the supplementary duty as a percentage of the ex-factory price is recommended.


 » Conclusion Top


SLT use is well-recognized as occupying a significant portion of overall tobacco consumption in Bangladesh. Yet very little is known about the effectiveness of tax and price policy in controlling the use of SLT use in the country. By examining the price distribution of various smoked and SLT products and estimating the effects of changes in the prices of tobacco products on the consumption of SLT, this paper argues that increasing tax on SLT products simultaneously with the tax increase on smoked tobacco products can have significant negative impact on the prevalence of SLT use in Bangladesh. Furthermore, the tax increase on SLT products needs to be greater than the tax increase on smoked tobacco products to bridge the wide price differential between the two types of products that currently encourages downward substitution and discourages quitting behavior. Finally, a specific excise system replacing the existing ad valorem excise tax can substantially contribute to the revenue collection performance from SLT products.


 » Acknowledgments Top


The authors would like to acknowledge the team members from University of Waterloo and University of Dhaka for their contributions in the ITC Bangladesh Project. The ITC Bangladesh Survey was supported by the International Development Research Centre (Grant 104831-002), Canadian Institutes for Health Research (Operating Grants 79551 and 115016), the US National Cancer Institute (P01 CA138389), and GTF was supported by a senior investigator award from Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and by a Prevention Scientist Award from the Canadian Cancer Research Institute.

Disclaimer

The authors alone are responsible for the views expressed in this article and they do not necessarily represent the views, decisions or policies of the institutions with which they are affiliated.

 
 » References Top

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Khan A, Huque R, Shah SK, Kaur J, Baral S, Gupta PC, et al. Smokeless tobacco control policies in South Asia: A gap analysis and recommendations. Nicotine Tob Res 2014;16:890-4.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
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Fong GT, Cummings KM, Borland R, Hastings G, Hyland A, Giovino GA, et al. The conceptual framework of the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Policy Evaluation Project. Tob Control 2006;15 Suppl 3:iii3-11.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
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Abdullah AS, Hitchman SC, Driezen P, Nargis N, Quah AC, Fong GT. Socioeconomic differences in exposure to tobacco smoke pollution (TSP) in Bangladeshi households with children: Findings from the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Bangladesh Survey. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2011;8:842-60.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
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Nargis N, Ruthbah UH, Hussain AK, Fong GT, Huq I, Ashiquzzaman SM. The price sensitivity of cigarette consumption in Bangladesh: Evidence from the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Bangladesh Wave 1 (2009) and Wave 2 (2010) Surveys. Tob Control 2014;23 Suppl 1:i39-47.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
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Cragg JG. Some statistical models for limited dependent variables with applications to the demand for durable goods. Econometrica 1971;39:829-44.  Back to cited text no. 8
    


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