Anarchy in the Zarda Market: A Smokeless Tobacco (SLT)UBINIG || Monday 04 September 2023 ||
As a part of its regular market monitoring activities, Tabinaj – the Women’s Alliance against Tobacco conducted a survey on a particular SLT product, namely Zarda, from July 11 to 20, 2023 in three marketplaces of the Dhaka city–Mohammadpur Town Hall Market, Krishi Market, and Karwan Bazar. In these three marketplaces, Zarda is sold in shops that have names as zarda shop, while the others sell zarda along with other groceries. A total of 34 brands of Zarda products have been collected from 17 shops of these 3 marketplaces. The main focus of this survey was to check whether the information stipulated in the Tobacco Control Act has been complied within the packaging of the Zarda products. It has also been checked whether information such as weight, price, address of the manufacturer, manufacturing and expiry date are mentioned on the packaging of the SLT products. Besides, any deviation between the market price and the price mentioned on the products has been identified and whether Zarda products are being sold at the new prices set after imposing tax according to the national budget 2023-24.
The 34 brands of Zarda products from where the information has been collected are:
1.Izma Shova Zarda, 2. Jafrani Zarda 99, 3. Ratan Zarda, 4. Baba Zarda, 5. Noman Zarda, 6. Dhaka Zarda, 7. Shah Alamer Shahazadi Kunda Zarda, 8. Nayim Pati Zarda, 9. Gurudeb Zarda, 10. Khanpur Zarda, 11. Hakimpuri Zarda, 12. Nurani Red Leaf, 13. Nurani Shahazadi, 14. Izma Henapati, 15. Dulal Pati Zarda, 16. Monipuri Zarda, 17. Mohiuddin Zarda, 18. Noman Pata Zarda, 19. Taj Pati Zarda, 20. Gopal Zarda, 21. Bou Zarda, 22. Izma Shova Zarda (Packet), 23. Izma Vija Pati, 24. Eagle Zarda 501, 25. Bou Shahazadi Zarda (Packet), 26. Nur Murubbi Zarda Golapi Pati (Packet), 27. Baba Zarda Golapi Pati (Packet), 28. Shilpi Special Jafrani Zarda 99-19 No., 29. Babul Paan Porag, 30. Adi Vija Pati Zarda, 31. Mamun Ratan Pati Zarda, 32. Bat One Mamun Baba Zarda Golapi Pati, 33. Antor Mukhi Sada Shova Zarda (Packet), and 34. Mishti Powder Chomon Bahar.
Weight not mentioned in 14 Brands of Zarda. These are
1.Alamer Shahazadi Kunda Zarda, 2. Khanpur Zarda, 3. Nurani Red Leaf, 4. Nurani Shahzadi, 5. Dulal Pati Zarda, 6. Monipuri Zarda, 7. Mohiuddin Zarda, 8. Noman Pata Zarda, 9. Bou Zarda, 10. Izma Vija Pati, 11. Bou Shahazadi Zarda (Packet), 12. Shilpi Special Zafrani Zarda 99-19 No., 13. Mamun Ratan Pati Zarda, and 14. Antormukhi Sada Shova Zarda (Packet).
Among the 34 Brands of Zarda, weight level has been mentioned on the packaging of 20 containers of different sizes. However, these 20 containers of Zarda products are available in the market in 12 different weight levels, namely 5g, 10g, 15g, 20g, 25g, 30g, 50g, 60g, 80g, and 100g.
Zarda products of these 20 different-sized containers, having 12 different weight levels, are being sold on the market under 25 different brands.
These are: 1. Izma Henapati, 2. Gurudeb Zarda, 3. Noman Zarda, 4. Izma Shova Zarda, 5. Dhaka Zarda, 6. Jafrani Zarda 99, 7. Taj Pati Zarda, 8. Nur Murubbi Zarda Golapi Zarda, 9. Baba Zarda Golapi Pati (Packet) 10. Izma Shova Zarda, 11. Baba Zarda, 12. Mishti Powder Chaman Bahar, 13. Jafrani Zarda 99, 14. Eagle Zarda 501, 15. Izma Shova Zarda, 16. Jafrani Zarda 99, 17. Nayim Pati Zarda, 18. Hakimpuri Zarda, 19. Gopal Zarda, 20. Babul Paan Porag, 21. Bat One Mamun Baba Zarda Golapi Pati, 22. Izma Shova Zarda, 23. Ratan Zarda, 24. Baba Zarda, and 25. Hakimpuri Zarda.
Zarda products have been found in various weight levels, from 5g to 100g, in containers of 20 different sizes. However, most of the Zarda products are available in the market in packets or containers of 10g to 25g weight levels. A few of the Zarda products are sold in packets or containers of 50g to 80g. According to the national budget for this fiscal year (2023-24), tax has been imposed on 10g Zarda containers. But only 25% of Zarda products have been found in 10g weight level packets or containers. Similarly, 25% of Zarda products have been found in 20g weight level packets or containers. Another 25% of Zarda products have been found in 25g weight level packets or containers. It is evident from this scenario that the weight level that has been determined during the time of tax imposition does not reflect the reality of the markets of the Zarda products. The Zarda brands that are available in the market in 10g weight level packets or containers are: Gurudeb Zarda, Noman Zarda, and Izma Shovon Zarda. These 10g weight level Zarda products are supposed to be sold in the market at 45 taka. However, these are being sold only at 10 taka or 12 taka.
Non-compliance of Tobacco Control Act
The non-compliance of Tobacco Control Act with regard to the display of maximum retail price (MRP) has also been noticed. There is also an arbitrariness in prices as sometimes the shopkeepers ask for prices according to their wishes. In its survey, TABINAJ has found that among the 34 brands of Zarda products, 26 brands (76%) did not mention retail price on the packaging of the product. The other 12 brands of Zarda products are being sold on the market at various prices and weight levels. In some cases, it has been found that the Zarda products are being sold at a higher price than the one mentioned on the packets or containers of the Zarda product. For example, Izma Henapati, weight: 5g, is being sold at 20 taka but the price mentioned on the packaging is 17 taka; Noman Pata Zarda, weight: 10g, is being sold at 12 taka but the price mentioned on the packaging is 10 taka; Hakimpuri Zarda, weight: 50g, is being sold at 175 taka but the price mentioned on the packaging is 160 taka; Baba Zarda, weight 20g, is being sold at 10 taka but the price mentioned on the packaging is 6 taka.
Increasing the price of the Zarda product is an effective tool to control the usage of SLT products. However, the price of Zarda and other tobacco products should be increased in such a manner that the amount of government revenue from this sector increases and at the same time the price goes beyond the affordability of most of the common users of these products. Though the shopkeepers are selling the Zarda products at prices higher than the one mentioned on the packets of the SLT products, it is not high enough to discourage the users of Zarda products from buying it. So, it is only serving the purpose of the sellers as they are reaping the profit in this way. It has been often found that poor and women consumers often do not check the price mentioned on the packaging of the products. As a result, the sellers of the Zarda products often take advantage of their lack of awareness by charging a higher price from them.
Fourteen Zarda brands (41%) are being sold on the market without having mentioned any price on the packaging of Zarda packets or containers. Small containers of these Zarda brands are being sold at 10 taka while large containers are being sold at 110 taka. Such Zarda brands are: Ratan Zarda, Nurani Red Leaf, Dulal Pati Zarda, Izma Vija Pati, etc.
Manufacturing and expiry date have been mentioned on 23 brands of Zarda products (67%) among the 34 Zarda brands. The other Zarda brands have neither the manufacturing nor the expiry date of the products. It has been found that the expiry date of the Zarda product of M Kader Eagle Tobacco Company has been mentioned as 2022 but it is still being sold on the market. This incident was spotted at Mohammadpur Krishi Market in Dhaka.
The addresses of the manufacturers are not mentioned properly on the packaging of the Zarda products in most of cases. Even in some of the Zarda brands, the address has not been mentioned at all. This survey has revealed that the manufacturer’s address has been mentioned properly only on 6 Zarda brands (17%) among the 34 brands. For example, Noor Mohammad Chemical Company, 321 Mir Hajaribag, Dhaka. Twelve Zarda brands (35%) have been found where the manufacturer’s address has not been mentioned properly. For example, these brands have only mentioned the name of a district, i.e. Narayanganj, instead of a proper address. The other 16 Zarda brands (47%) have not mentioned any kind of address at all. That means, no government authorities, like the National Board of Revenue (NBR), will be able to identify and monitor the activities of these Zarda manufacturers.
It may be mentioned that Women’s Alliance against Tobacco, (TABINAJ), was involved with developing a strategy paper, an initiative taken by National Tobacco Control Cell under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, where all these issues were addressed. This strategy paper was passed in the ministry in 2020 and was supposed to be implemented from 10 January, 2021. But still arbitrariness and anomalies prevail in the market of Zarda and other SLT products as before.
Data Collection: Rokeya Begum
Report: Sayyida Akhter Kumkum