Live VoTV with Kerala Chief Minister at Chief Minister’s office Secretariat, Trivandrum
VoTV patrons Dr. Paul Sebastian and Dr. Jayakrishnana, with Tobacco Free Kerala team and VoTV patient had meetings with the Chief Minister and Secretary for Taxes in the state for advocating on tobacco taxes.
Shri Oomen Chandy, Hon’able CM Kerala was met by Dr Paul Sebastian and briefed the Chief Minister about the harms of tobacco, especially bidis, and pointed out bidis are not being taxed in Kerala. The Chief Minister readily agreed the fact that bidi industry is in crisis in Kerala with scant workers employed in them. We also told him most of the bidis used by Kerala users are being brought from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and other states, escaping the tax net. That Tamil Nadu is taxing bidis at 14.5 per cent was pointed out to him. Revenue generated as a result of tax increase based on RTI data was also highlighted. Joining the team was 28-year-old tobacco-induced victim. Dr Paul explained how the young man had lost his ability to speak clearly following a surgery to treat tobacco-induced oral cancer. Chief Minister was pained to see the young man’s condition and expressed dismay on learning that two years of tobacco use had brought this malady to the youngster. Patient narrated his experience and said he knows of many friends who had cut down on cigarette consumption following tax increase and appealed to the Chief Minister to increase taxes on cigarettes and bring bidis under the tax net.
The Chief Minister gave us a patient and sympathetic hearing and assured support even while admitting there is huge pressure from the merchant community against tax increase.
Then the team met Taxes Secretary to sensitize him on tobacco taxes.
Dr. Jayakrishnan VoTV patron and VoTV patient with the team of Tobacco Free Kerala met the Secretary for taxes to sensitize him for a tax raise on tobacco products including beedi.
Dr. Jayakrishnan introduced the VoTV patient (cancer patient) and explained the misery he had gone through in life due to tobacco consumption. The secretary was explained that raising taxes not only bring downs the consumption of tobacco but also mobilizes the revenue for the state. He was told about how bidi is not under the tax net and how bidis are more harmful than cigarettes. Recent newspaper stories that say that bidi industry is in crisis were also shared with him.
Secretary then entered into a brief talk with Jawahar asking him what could be done to bring down cigarette and bidi use in the state. Jawahar quickly replied that hiking taxes and price increases thereof will be a good option as he knows of friends who had cut down from 10 cigarettes to 5 following price increase.
Tax secretary mentioned that they would certainly consider for a drastic hike in taxes after getting consent from legislative assembly.