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In April, MANOBIK, a campaigning non-governmental organisation working against the harm caused by drug use, organised a rally with a difference. For one thing, it was carried out by members and supporters on bicycles; and its purpose was unusual, too—to demand an increase in tobacco taxes and a reduction in bicycle taxes in the next budget.
After a cycle journey though the capital, Dakha, participants presented the chairman of the National Board of Revenue with a petition, explaining that tobacco causes harm both directly and indirectly to developing countries, adversely affecting public health, the economy, and the environment. They said that to reduce the use of tobacco, the most effective measure was to raise the tax, which would not only yield more government revenue, but also result in a decrease in medical costs to treat people suffering from the diseases caused by tobacco use.
The tax on cigarettes currently ranges from 35–65%, yet the price of cigarettes has remained essentially unchanged for years, despite significant increases in the prices of essential goods. MANOBIK said tax increases tend to cause lower income workers and students to quit, leaving more money available for basic needs. On the other hand, transport expenditures, say the group, are a major strain on the poor, and the most affordable transport, after walking, is cycling, which is both healthy and pollution-free. However, the tax on bicycles is 69.5%. Cleverly combining the themes to make an unassailable case, the rally participants demanded that tobacco taxes be increased by 100%, and the tax on bicycles greatly reduced in the next budget.
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