Tobacco consumption costs 166,000 lives annually in Pakistan and tobacco use has a significant impact on the economic costs of a country, including the health care costs for treating tobacco related diseases and lost productivity of workforce.
This was stated by CEO of Human Development Foundation (HDF) Azhar Saleem while speaking at an online media session.
He said that the annual economic cost of smoking in Pakistan is as high as Rs143 billion. Among the tobacco control measures, increase in taxes on tobacco products has been the most effective measure. While explaining the taxation structure on tobacco products in Pakistan, he stated that through changes in the taxation structure, tobacco industry has been evading taxes at the cost of the lives of people.
The government needs to keep in mind the growing inflation rate while finalizing the taxes on tobacco products for fiscal year 2020-2021. He urged the government to increase FED on tobacco products by Rs. 20 for each slab of tobacco tax structure.
Sajjad Cheema, Executive Director SPARC stated that tobacco industry is targeting the youth through its manipulative tactics. To save our youth from the menace of tobacco consumption, it is imperative for the government to increase the prices of tobacco products through higher taxes.
Dr. Javed Khan, Pulmonologist at Aga Khan University stated that the disease burden on public health departments and hospitals has increased multiple folds due to COVID 19. He stated that tobacco consumption is the major cause fo non-communicable diseases in Pakistan. people who smoke cigarettes have already compromised the health of their lungs and thus are at increased risk of contracting COVID19. This will further incease the burden of public health institution in times of this pandemic.
He urged the government to take into consideration the health of its people and increase the taxes on tobacco products, including a surcharge of Rs. 10/pack of cigarette and Rs. 1/250ml of sugary drinks to generate more funds for tackling the current pandemic.
Murtaza Solangi, Senior Journalist and former Director General, Radio Pakistan said while we all know about the machination of tobacco and sugar industry, as to how they act like a true mafia, the society lacks a response to protect peoples’ lives.
He said both the state and the Seth Media are collaborators in disseminating the interests of the mafias and sadly they are working with policy makers and the bureaucracy to serve the mafias instead of protecting the peoples’ lives.
Sanaullah Ghumman, General Secretary PANAH, urged the government to take necessary step in tobacco control efforts and implement the tax surcharge on all forms of tobacco products. This is a win-win situation for both the economy and health of the country in the form of increased revenues and decreased disease burden.