The increased GST on the NRT products may deter smokers from trying to quit the habit
by Suman Gupta
Mumbai, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), is an effective approach to tackle tobacco addiction. Despite aiding positive outcomes, NRT formulations continue to have a higher GST slab, which would certainly prevent tobacco addicts from trying the therapy and adopt healthier lives. Under the current GST regime, Nicotine Polacrilex gum comes under the 18% slab, as against 11.3% average total indirect tax under the pre-GST regime, which is extremely high and not in consonance with the exercise of fitting a product in the nearest GST slab applicable. Surprisingly all other pharmaceutical products have been categorized under the ‘NIL’ or 5% or 12% slabs. This alarming discrepancy in the rates will not help India tackle the menace of tobacco smoking and would risk higher morbidity due to lifestyle and non-communicable diseases. This would act contrary to the National Health Policy.
In a country like India, with more than 100 million smokers and over one-fifth of the world’s tobacco-related deaths, tobacco de-addiction (both smoking & smokeless) is key area for the government under the ambit of the country’s Health Policy. Government has announced its aim to reduce tobacco use by 15% by 2020 and eventually 30% by 2030. For us as a country how do we provide tobacco addicts with easy access to rehabilitation related products and services, which become increasingly unaffordable due to the GST related issue.
According to Dr. Jagannath P, Former State Consultant for Karnataka, and also worked for a WHO-funded project on National Tobacco Control Program “NRT has been instrumental in aiding innumerable smokers quit the habit. Global health bodies such as WHO and United States Federal and Drug Administration (US FDA) have also identified NRT as an aid to smoking cessation and recommends it as first line of treatment. Making NRT expensive would defeat the aim of the government in striving for a healthier nation and enhanced productivity.”
“NRT isan effective and easy aid to help quit smoking. By making NRT accessible to millions in India, we could decrease smoking-related disease burden by successfully mitigating the risks of lung cancer, emphysema, stroke, heart attack and complications in pregnancy. With the usage of Nicotine Replacement Therapy, the mortality rate due to smoking-related diseaseswould drop drastically within just a few years of quitting smoking, even for long-time smokers.” added Dr. RajamIyer, Pulmonologist associated with Bhatia and Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai.
NRT provides small quantities of nicotine to the brain, without exposing the body to other harmful products of tobacco combustion. This small quantity of nicotine helps a smoker overcome the urge to smoke, which in turn helps a him quit the habit. Let GST not be a hindrance to India’s Health mission. India’s present & future is primarily dependent on good health.GST should enhance health seeking behavior of millions and not deter.