Tobacco control activists, health professionals and members of civil society have demanded 30pc increase in taxes on tobacco industry as per the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations.
They made this unanimous demand at a policy dialogue on Tobacco Taxation organized by the Society for the Protection of Rights of the Child at a local hotel in Murree.
While addressing the participants of the dialogue,
Malik Imran Ahmad, Country Head Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) said smoking was a silent killer in our society, with a total of 29 million active smokers.
Of these active smokers, 170,000 die each year due to tobacco related diseases. Besides being a deadly substance tobacco causes a health burden of Rs 615 billion due to loss of productivity and tobacco-related diseases, while the revenue collected from the tobacco industry is only Rs120 billion. Higher taxes on tobacco is essentials to mitigate this burden. Unfortunately, in the last three years taxes could not be increased because Tobacco Industry misleads the govt with illicit trade figures. Increasing taxes on tobacco is the most effective policy to reduce consumption and generate additional funds for the government.
He further added that Pakistan should increase the excise rates by at least 30% on cigarettes to ensure the reduction in cigarette consumption and the growth of tobacco revenue.
Dr. Ziauddin Islam, former Technical head, Tobacco Control Cell, Ministry of Health & Former technical focal person of Govt of Pakistan to WHO FCTC, while speaking to the seminar said that tobacco consumption among youth in Pakistan is unacceptably high, and their use of this addictive product is harming their mental and physical health.
Pakistan’s young people make up 64 % of the population which can easily become a target for the tobacco industry. He further stated that approximately 1200 children between the age of 6 – 15 years start smoking every day (Tobacco Control Cell Factsheet). Youth is the key target of the tobacco industry. The industry considers adolescents as replacement for smokers dying of tobacco use.
Regrettably, cigarettes in our country are available at the cheapest rates in the region, which makes them affordable for youth. He demand for raising tobacco taxes, as children are price sensitive, increasing tobacco taxes to 30% will help prevent youth from starting to smoke, he added.