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June 11, 2020

Health activists demand no concessions for smoking

Islamabad

June 11, 2020

Islamabad : Anti-tobacco activists and health experts on Wednesday rejected a proposal of multinational cigarette companies, suggesting a reduction in taxes from Rs1650 to Rs1250 per 1,000 cigarettes in tier-II tax rates.

Health experts said that this would lead to an increase in the consumption of cigarettes, health burden on the national kitty besides contributing to a reduction in national revenue.

The companies have also suggested the FBR increase taxes on cigarettes falling in teir-I of the tax rate from Rs5200 to Rs5600 per thousand, which health experts call a gimmick.

The activists argued that the proposed proposal will not only hit the Health of the people also would cause a loss in government revenue as 80 % of MNCs volume falls in tier II. This has already happened in the past. The government after relying on MNCs data introduced a third tier which resulted in loss of Rs34 billion in revenue and the government had to revert back to two-tier structure.

In fact, the government should adopt best practices and abolish the tier system on cigarettes and simply increase Rs20 Federal Excise Duty on cigarettes for each slab of tobacco tax structure in the budget to enhance revenue collection and discourage tobacco use, Azhar Saleem, chief executive officer at Human Development Foundation, told reporters on Wednesday.

He said the revenue would help the government cover Rs143 billion per annum health burden on hospitals due to the increasing tobacco consumption.

Saleem urged the government to initiate tax measures to discourage the tobacco use and increase the tax revenue as per guidelines of the World Health Organisation.

“In Pakistan, tobacco use remains a major public health challenge claiming 160,000 lives annually. Furthermore, 1,200 Pakistani children between the ages of 6 to 15 start smoking daily which is alarming,” Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said in a recent statement.

According to health experts and advocates, the severe shortage of funds faced by Pakistan to combat the coronavirus could be overcome by imposing more taxation on tobacco products.

They said the government should adopt a futuristic approach and channelize the additional revenues into situations where financial setbacks are faced such as the current pandemic of coronavirus. This additional revenue will continue in lessening the financial crunch that the country is facing, they added.