ISLAMABAD: Political leadership on Tuesday assured the civil society that their parties would try to get tobacco taxation increased in the upcoming budget.

They were participating in a pre-budget session with parliamentarians on tobacco tax organised by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) at a local hotel.

PTI legislator Mohammad Ibrahim Khan, while speaking to participants, said that not only he would take up the issue in the parliament but suggest his party to increase tobacco taxation.

“I can assure that PTI gives more importance to health of people rather than the money generated by the tobacco. That is why we have appointed prime minister’s focal person on tobacco,” he said.

PPP leader Farhatullah Babar said his party would also take up the matter at the floor of National Assembly and Senate.

“We appreciate the efforts aimed at protecting the health of youth. It is the responsibility of the state to take care of health of its people,” he said.

Earlier, Sparc Executive Director Sajjad Ahmad Cheema said big tobacco industry caused a whopping Rs153 billion loss to the national exchequer between 2016-19, by being awarded low tax rate and adjusting the prices of their most sold brands.

Almost 90pc of all brands consumed in Pakistan were taxed as ‘low’ tiers under the previous tax system (FY 2016-17).

Malik Imran from Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids suggested increasing the prices of cigarettes because it would not only increase the revenue of the state but also protect youth from a number of diseases including cancer.

Pakistan Heart Association (Panah) General Secretary Sanaullah Ghumman said the volume of illicit trade is very low as claimed by the tobacco industry and the data presented to the government by the industry is also challengeable.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2019