‘FBR fails to impose health levy on cigarettes’

Updated January 21, 2020

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No action has been taken even though cabinet had approved the long-awaited health levy bill on cigarette packs, say anti-tobacco activists. —AFP/File
No action has been taken even though cabinet had approved the long-awaited health levy bill on cigarette packs, say anti-tobacco activists. —AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Anti-tobacco advocates on Monday alleged that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) failed to impose the health levy on cigarettes.

Speaking at a media session organised by Human Development Foundation (HDF), they called upon the government to ensure implementation of the levy without further delay.

According to a statement issued by the HDF, after the announcement of the budget 2019-20, the cabinet had approved the long-awaited health levy bill on cigarette packs and instructed the FBR to immediately implement it.

However, no action was taken, they added.

An effective tobacco control measure is provided in Article 6 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which addresses the “Price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco”.

Through this measure, governments are required to implement tax and price policies which will ultimately add to the national health objectives.

HDF chief Azhar Saleem said: “The spirit of health levy is to increase revenue that will be placed at the disposal of the health ministry to lessen the burden of expenditure that is incurred on diseases caused by use of tobacco in all its forms.”

He said these revenues would help ensure the sustainability of health programmes as had been evident from the experience of countries like the Philippines and Thailand.

According to Mr Saleem, the tobacco industry claimed that increasing taxes on tobacco products led to an increase in illicit trade of tobacco.

But as has been stated time and again, the issue of illicit trade of tobacco is administrative in nature and not related to tax increase.

He said an effective and transparent track and trace system for tobacco industry would help in solving the issue of illicit trade, ensuring the sale of legal cigarettes.

He urged the government to ensure the that health levy on cigarettes was implemented without any further delay.

He said the implementation of the levy would endorse the commitments of the government to the wellbeing of its citizens, especially youth, by reducing the tobacco consumption.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2020