Ahead of the Union Budget for 2023, a coalition of 15 women and child rights organisations (WCRO Initiative) has appealed to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to increase taxes on tobacco products and make them less affordable.

Stating that taxes on tobacco products had not been increased in the last five years, WCRO Convener Varsha Deshpande said that an increase in taxes would lead to reduced consumption of tobacco, particularly among youngsters and people in low-income groups.

“It will also help add more revenue to the State exchequer which can be utilised for the welfare of women and children through different Government health programmes,” she said.

The coalition members work in eight States of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and West Bengal.

“Smokeless tobacco is quite common among women in India. The health risks of tobacco consumption are many,” she said in an appeal to the Finance Minister on Wednesday.

Quoting the World Health Organisation’s report — Comprehensive Cervical Cancer Control: A guide to essential practice — she pointed out that smoking tobacco could increase the risk of cervical cancer in women infected with human papillomavirus (HPV).

“Studies found that quitting smoking would reduce the risk of cervical cancer. Female smoking rates were higher in those areas with higher rates of cervical cancer,” she said.

“Studies have found a significant decrease in the live birth rate per cycle for smoking patients, a significantly lower clinical pregnancy rate per cycle for smoking women, and a significant increase in terms of spontaneous miscarriage rate for smokers,” she said.

She said a reduced burden of diseases and a healthy workforce would help the country achieve its target becoming a $5-trillion economy by 2025. Asking the Finance Minister to seriously consider increasing the taxes on tobacco products, the coalition said it would go a long way in achieving good health and well-being of all (one of the Sustainable Development Goals), including women and girls who have a critical role in the socio-economic development of the country.