Govt set to implement health levy on cigarettes in upcoming budget

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Zubair Qureshi

The federal government is all set to implement a health levy on cigarettes in the upcoming fiscal year to discourage smoking, boost revenues and reduce the number of non-communicable diseases like cancer, diabetes and stroke.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health, Dr. Faisal Sultan said on Wednesday that his ministry was working to incorporate the health levy bill on cigarettes into the upcoming Finance Bill to implement it across the country.

He said the health levy on cigarettes should have been implemented in the previous fiscal year and is long-delayed.

The federal cabinet, however, taking up the matter had approved the health levy in June 2019, but it is yet to be implemented.

A delay in the implementation of the health levy was causing a loss of around Rs38 billion annually to the national exchequer in terms of low tax collection.

The special assistant has vowed not to accept pressure from any influential industry to further delay the imposition of the levy, adding that the levy would help collect additional billions of rupees in taxes that would be sufficient to improve health infrastructure in the country.

Earlier, in a letter to the Ministry of Finance, Dr. Faisal Sultan emphasized the need to charge Rs10 per pack of 20 cigarettes health tax on tobacco and Re1 per 250 milliliter on carbonated drinks as approved by the federal cabinet on June 18, 2019.

Sultan said the non-communicable diseases like heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease were collectively responsible for almost 68 percent of all deaths in Pakistan.

Pakistan is obligated to reduce one-third premature mortality from these diseases mainly caused by the tobacco by 2030 as part of its targets set in Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs], he said.