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Taxing tobacco to be helpful in saving health

March 20, 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:To prevent public health, the calls for raising taxes on tobacco are gaining momentum as Dr. Muhammad Zaman endorses the policy that imposing taxes on tobacco saves lives as was advocated by the SDPI.

Founding Chairman of the Department of Sociology at Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) and head of the Zaman Research Center, Dr Muhammad Zaman has underlined the need for imposing more taxes to save lives. “Taxing tobacco saves lives by reducing consumption and channelling resources towards essential public health initiatives,” he said. Earlier, the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) had pointed out deficiencies in tax collection framework as well as the need for increasing taxes on tobacco products particularly cigarettes. The institute had published a detailed report based on government data that says that the country lost Rs567 in revenue during the last seven years.

The SDPI’s report titled ‘Tobacco Taxation in Pakistan: Unraveling the revenue loss of Rs567b to the exchequer,’ has unearthed the staggering financial toll inflicted by the tobacco industry on the national exchequer. Dr Zaman said that cigarette is a non-essential and perilous commodity. He said affordability of the cigarettes was the major contributor to high consumption and ultimately diseases and fatalists in the country. He said increasing prices of cigarettes was internationally proven strategy to curtail the consumption.

Dr. Zaman endorsed the alignment of tobacco taxation with the guidelines outlined by the World Health Organisation (WHO), emphasizing the imperative to develop a long-term taxation policy grounded in global best practices and Article 6 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). In order to substantiate his argument of making the cigarette unaffordable to curb consumption, Dr. Zaman referred to a recent research report by Capital Calling that said that increase in prices of cigarette has resulted in decrease in consumption The Islamabad-based think tank Capital Calling reported that “one in every ninety-four smokers was forced to quit smoking after a significant raise in taxes.”

“The interviews with the smokers and data collected from these cities show that they are now saving the money by quitting smoking to fulfil other needs like food, education and health of their children, and paying the utilities”.