Civil society presses govt. to increase tax on tobacco

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Sajjad Cheema Executive Director SPARC speaking at a press conference in Islamabad on the topic “low tobacco taxation, accessibility and advertisement of tobacco for minors"

ISLAMABAD: 28 January 2019: Human Development Foundation, Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) and Insigne Pvt. held a post-budget Press Conference on Monday, 28 January 2019 at the National Press Club, Islamabad on “low tobacco taxation, accessibility and advertisement of tobacco  for minors; future tobacco consumers across the Pakistan.

The post-budget Press Conference addressed the earlier efforts of the government through sin tax. However, government has yet not imposed Health Levy or increase of Federal Excise Duty (FED) on Tobacco Products in the recent budget.

Speaking to journalists, Mr Sajjad Cheema – SPARC Executive Director said that considering the fact that increase in dollar price has had an effect of the increase in the price of basic goods for living. whereas, the prices of tobacco products are still the same which makes it accessible to minors. As civil society organizations and anxious for better future generation of Pakistan we are seriously concerned why heavy taxes are not been imposed on tobacco industry in the Pakistan. Heavy taxation on tobacco products will reduce the tobacco consumption and decrease the accessibility of minors to tobacco products. This will not only reduce the health bill of government of Pakistan and contribute to clean and healthy environment for future generations. We urge to Government of Pakistan to increase the tobacco taxations to save our children.

Major General (Retd) Azhar Saleem CEO HDF said that usage of tobacco is among the five main leading causes for the outbreak and prevalence of Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs). Pakistan yearly spends around Rs. 140 billions on the tobacco related diseases, which is a huge liability on the health sector of the country. The preventive measures including the imposition of excise in the form of sin tax can help to eradicate the spread of tobacco epidemic in the country.

As per the claims of Health Minister the Sin Tax or Health Levy was planned to be imposed on the tobacco products but eventually, in this financial bill, we have seen the minor increased in tax on tobacco products. This reflects that health of our young generations is at high risk, not prioritized by government of Pakistan as compared to generate minimum revenues from the tobacco industry.

It is estimated that if the government eliminates the lowest tax tier and brings the FED of the lower tier to PKR 40, it would raise significant additional tobacco tax revenue of PKR 18.4 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).

Health and Child protection advocates should be reactive to the Government for  keeping the promise of improving the lives of Pakistani’s and providing them a green environment Government have to practically take concrete steps to protect our youth from Tobacco.