Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC) held a briefing session on demanding an implementation of Health Levy Bill that was approved by the cabinet in 2019 but was never implemented. The bill would raise prices on cigarettes and sugary drinks, and as a result help generate Rs. 50 billion annually in revenue. SPARC particularly demanded FBR to escalate the process to implement the bill.
Mr. Sajjad Ahmed Cheema, Executive Director, SPARC said that raising prices on tobacco is proven to be the single most effective policy to reduce tobacco consumption and its related health diseases. About 1200 children start smoking every day in Pakistan, which is an alarming figure and requires immediate action. Health levy bill can raise the prices and also help generate revenue that can be used for healthcare schemes. However, this bill has been going back and forth between FBR, Healthy Ministry, and Finance Ministry. However, it still stays pending to date. e further added that due to the delay in implementation of the health levy, the state treasury suffered a loss of Rs. 50 billion annually.
Ms. Afshan Tehseen, Chairperson National Commission on the Rights of the Child (NCRC) said, that the pandemic situation makes it all the more necessary to implement the bill to generate revenue and support the healthcare system. Also, cheap cigarettes give easy access to youth of these highly dangerous products. We cannot negate the importance of the health levy, and the delay in this matter is unacceptable because it shows that health is not a priority matter for our government.
Ch. Sana Ullah Ghuman, Secretary General, Pakistan National Heart Association said, tobacco dependence is responsible for 166,000 deaths in Pakistan yearly, is considered to be a “pediatric disease”. Factors contributing to youth smoking include cultural traditions, tobaccos’ easy accessibility, moderate pricing, and tobacco advertisements and promotional activities. He further added that the under-aged are the most affected group by tobacco consumption. Approximately 1200 children are beginning smoking every day due to easy affordability, which is alarming for Pakistan. Hence imposing a health levy is required for the wellbeing of our children.