Speakers Call for Increasing Tax on Tobacco in Pakistan

Sun May 26 2024
icon-facebook icon-twitter icon-whatsapp

ISLAMABAD: The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) arranged a policy dialogue on tobacco taxation to highlight the contribution of the tobacco industry to Pakistan’s economy and the health cost burden due to the use of the commodity.

Speakers urged for an immediate increase in tobacco taxation for the fiscal year 2024–25, stating that it would be a win-win situation for the government and the people.

Murtaza Solangi, former Caretaker Minister of Information and Broadcasting, said that low cigarette prices are the reason why children and youth start smoking.

He said that smoking-related illnesses and deaths incur substantial economic costs in the country’s GDP every year. These increasing health cost burdens encompass healthcare expenses, productivity losses due to diseases and premature death, as well as other indirect economic impacts.

He added that the tobacco epidemic required comprehensive strategies encompassing public health interventions, awareness campaigns, and strong tobacco control policies. By tackling tobacco use, the country can mitigate economic losses associated with smoking-related diseases, potentially alleviate the burden on its healthcare system, and keep youth safe from the harms of tobacco use, Solangi said.

Country head of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Malik Imran Ahmed said that the recent Federal Excise Duty reforms on tobacco had demonstrated promising results in terms of revenue generation. Collections from July 2023–January 2024 had already surpassed Rs122 billion, with projections for the full year exceeding RS200 billion, marking a notable increase compared to previous fiscal years.

Moreover, these reforms are likely to generate an additional Rs60 billion in General Sales Tax (GST) on cigarettes for the fiscal year 2023–24, he said, adding the combined impact of FED and GST is expected to be around Rs88 billion, indicating a remarkable relative growth of nearly 49 percent compared to the previous year.

Deaths Due to Tobacco-related Diseases

Prof. Dr. Mati ur Rehman, Lung Diseases and Tobacco Control, Health Services Academy, shared that tobacco-related diseases, also known as non-communicable illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and heart diseases, contribute to over 160,000 deaths annually in the country. These deaths not only affect individuals but also have long-term impacts on communities, families, and the healthcare system.

icon-facebook icon-twitter icon-whatsapp