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‘50pc increase in taxation can help deter smoking among youth’

March 18, 2024
A representational image shows a person holding a cigarette between the fingers. — AFP/File
A representational image shows a person holding a cigarette between the fingers. — AFP/File

Islamabad:Former federal minister for National Health Services, Dr Nadeem Jan has suggested for a significant increase of 50 percent in cigarette taxation to deter smoking among the population, especially the youth, due to serious health risks.

He stressed the importance of higher taxes as a measure to make cigarettes less accessible and to combat tobacco-related health issues effectively. Speaking at an anti-tobacco awareness session hosted by the Centre for Research and Dialogue and IBC, Dr Nadeem Jan critically addressed the cigarette industry’s claims that higher taxes would lead to a surge in illicit trade, labelling these assertions as misleading tactics aimed at persuading the government to lower taxes on tobacco products.

He pointed out the adverse impact of such misinformation on state revenues and public health. Despite industry pressures, he highlighted the efforts of the health ministry to implement policies to reduce smoking rates in Pakistan.

The former minister advocated for the adoption of a single-tier taxation system to replace the current multi-tier system, which was influenced by the cigarette industry under the pretext of combating illicit trade.

The introduction of a third-tier in 2017 led to a significant drop in government revenue, prompting investigations by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Senate into the financial losses incurred. The national exchequer suffered a staggering Rs 567 billion loss during last seven years due to various tactics used by the industry and inefficient tax collection.

Dr Nadeem Jan while reiterating Pakistan’s commitment to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) called for a unified pricing system to simplify regulation and discourage tobacco use. Country Head of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Malik Imran also spoke at the session, emphasizing the economic burden of tobacco consumption on the country, estimated at an annual loss of Rs615 billion. Imran criticized the tobacco industry’s undue influence on government policy and its unfounded warnings against tax increases, which contradict the industry’s record-high revenues and the government’s doubled revenue from the previous financial year.

Both speakers underscored the necessity of stringent regulation and public awareness to counter the tobacco industry’s misleading claims and propaganda, including on social media platforms, advocating for a significant tax increase on tobacco products as supported by the World Bank’s findings.