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‘Higher tax will discourage cigarette use’

Lahore

June 2, 2019

Islamabad: While highlighting the government's commitment to tobacco tax reforms, Chairman of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice Riaz Fatyana said Prime Minister Imran Khan had approved a plan to increase taxes on the cigarette manufacturing industry in the upcoming budget for 2019-20 in a bid to enhance revenue collection and discourage its use.

Addressing a seminar organised by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child at a hotel here, he said the premier had also given the go-ahead for the imposition of health tax of Rs10 per pack of cigarette and earnings from that would be used by the health ministry on welfare projects. "Approval has also been granted to rolling back of the third slab of federal excise duty introduced by the PML-N government, which brought down the duty and led to a reduction of billions of rupees in revenue collection," he said the government will not allow anyone to play with the health of people.

MNA Romina Khursheed Alam said Prime Minister Imran Khan raised the question of child welfare in his first address after becoming premier but the government had yet to tackle one of the threats to the welfare of children.

"To start with, there is a need to enforce strict policies against selling tobacco to children. Enforcement is the most crucial part. As it stands, shopkeepers are not afraid of any checks and balances on which they sell tobacco to," she said.

The lawmaker also said there was a need to increase the tax on tobacco products, which discourages young people from smoking. Malik Imran of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Pakistan office appreciated the Prime Minister Khan’s decision for imposing health tax of Rs.10 per pack of cigarette, approval for rolling back the third slab of federal excise duty introduced by the last government and his commitment regarding the health of people.

He added the tobacco industry has always portrayed high figures of illicit trade to strengthen their business against tobacco control legislation and enforcement of laws.

Malik Imran said Government should be aware of obsolete arguments and propaganda of the tobacco industry and need to ignore these arguments. Sajjad Ahmad Cheema, executive director, SPARC said that it is appreciable that the government has given the go-ahead to introduce stringent reforms against tobacco-use. One will have to wait to see whether an action is actually taken. Around eight million people around the world die each year due to tobacco smoking, while around 80 percent of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers suffer from cardiovascular and respiratory problems. An estimated 1200 children take up smoking every day in Pakistan. Moreover, the enforcement of strict health and safety practices in the tobacco cultivation industry in Pakistan is also essential, where the incidence of nicotine poisoning remains high. What is important is to build a successful campaign that creates a consensus that discourages tobacco-use at source.

Colonel (r) Azhar Saleem – CEO Human Development Foundation (HDF) said Pakistan is the 8th largest tobacco growing country in the world and produced about 116,016 tons of tobacco. There is no provision in current law for estimating, monitoring and regulating the contents of cigarettes. Furthermore, there is no laboratory available in the country to monitor and evaluate the contents of cigarettes.

"These cigarettes contain the significant levels of chemicals and nicotine, its combustion in the presence of paper of cigarettes further increases its hazards. Cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, cause many diseases and reduces the health of smokers in general. Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death," he said.

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