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June 10, 2020

Surcharge on tobacco, sugary drinks demanded

Islamabad

June 10, 2020

Islamabad : Anti-tobacco activists urged the government to increase taxes on tobacco products in a press conference at National Press Club here on Tuesday. Azhar Saleem, CEO HDF stated that now is the high time for government to increases taxes on tobacco products to save our youth from this menace.

He stated that currently the government is facing a financial crunch due to the pandemic. He added that the total economic cost of smoking in Pakistan was estimated at Rs143 billion in 2012. This includes direct healthcare costs and costs due to lost productivity, according to a 2018 report entitled Global Economic of Smoking-Attributable Diseases. By levying a surcharge of Rs10/pack of cigarette, the government can generate up to Rs40 billion in revenues. Moreover, if the government levies a surcharge of Rs1/2­50ml of sugary drinks, around 8 to 10 billion more can be generated in revenues. These additional revenues can help in facilitating the relief packages that the government has announced.

He further added that in order to adjust the inflation rates in the upcoming budget, the government needs to increase the current FED on tobacco products to at least Rs20. By doing so, revenues for the government will increase which can be channelized into health program initiatives of the government.

Sana Ullah Ghumman, Secretary General at PANAH, stated that World Health Organisation has confirmed that smokers are at a greater risk due to covid19. The government has to focus on reducing the health burden caused due to pandemic. The health cost incurred by government and individuals due to consumption of tobacco products is an added burden in these testing times. The government needs to take strict action by increasing taxes on tobacco products to cut down on the health costs incurred due to its consumption.

Sajjad Cheema, Executive Director SPARC, stated that the most effective strategy to make tobacco products inaccessible for youth is to increase taxes which will lead to increase in the prices of these products. This increase in prices will ultimately lead to tobacco products becoming inaccessible to youth. An average of 1,200 children become smokers on daily basis.