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January 29, 2019

Call for heavy taxes on tobacco products


January 29, 2019

Islamabad : Anti-smoking activists on Monday called for heavy taxation on tobacco products saying this will reduce the use of such harmful products by the people.

“Though the recent increase in dollar rate pushed the prices of basic consumer goods up, it ironically didn’t cause the prices of tobacco products to go up and thus, making them accessible to minors,” Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPRAC) Executive Director Sajjad Cheema told a post-mini-budget news conference at the National Press Club here.

The event titled ‘low tobacco taxation, accessibility and advertisement of tobacco for minors’ was held by the SPRAC, Human Development Foundation (HDF), and Insigne.

Sajjad Cheema regretted that the government didn’t impose health levy or increase federal excise duty (FED) on tobacco products in the mini-budget.

“As civil society organisations wish to see better future for Pakistan, we are seriously concerned why heavy taxes have not been imposed on the tobacco industry in the country. Such taxes will reduce tobacco consumption and decrease their accessibility to minors,” he said.

The SPARC chief said heavy taxation on tobacco products would not only reduce the health bill of the government but would also contribute to clean and healthy environment for future generations.

“We urge the government to increase tobacco taxations to save our children,” he said.

HDF CEO Major General (r) Azhar Saleem said the use of tobacco was among the five main leading causes of non-communicable diseases.

“Pakistan annually spends around Rs140 billion on the treatment of tobacco-related diseases, which is a huge liability for the health sector. The preventive measures including the imposition of excise in the form of sin tax can check the spread of the tobacco use in the country,” he said.

The HDF chief said the health minister claimed that the sin tax or health levy was planned to be imposed on tobacco products but the financial bill showed little increase in tax on tobacco products.

“This approach reflects that the health of our youths at high risk is not prioritized by the government,” he said.

He said it was estimated that if the government eliminated the lowest tax tier and brought the FED of the lower tier to Rs40, it would raise significant additional tobacco tax revenue of Rs18.4 billion — a 20.9% increase from current tobacco tax revenue.

“As an added advantage, it would reduce cigarette consumption by 12.6% and reduce the number of smoking-related deaths among current and future smokers by 3.1% (a reduction of about 0.35 million people every year,” he said.

The HDF chief said health and child protection advocates should be reactive to the government for keeping the promise of improving the lives of Pakistanis.

“Providing people with a green environment, the government has to take concrete steps to protect our youth from tobacco,” he said.

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