ISLAMABAD: While thanking Prime Minister Imran Khan for retaining tobacco taxation, the anti-tobacco advocates on Tuesday demanded increasing the prices of cigarettes as per inflation and valuation of dollar.

The demand came during an online “post-budget briefing session on tobacco taxation” jointly held by Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (Sparc), Human Development Foundation (HDF) and Pakistan National Heart Association (Panah) on Tuesday.

They said despite retaining the tax, practically the price of cigarettes has been decreased, considering the inflation and devaluation of rupees.

Anti-tobacco activists thanked to premier for retaining taxes on tobacco products in budget 2020-21 despite the pressure from big tobacco industry. The activists also gave their recommendations for future to save millions of lives from the harm of tobacco.

Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) Country head Malik Imran Ahmed said that every year tobacco industry tried to manipulate policymakers in order to fill its coffers at the expense of more than 170,000 people lives, who died due to diseases caused by use of tobacco products.

He thanked the government for not giving in to the deceptive tactics of big tobacco industry and retained the taxation cap on tobacco products.

Executive Director SPARC Sajjad Ahmed Cheema said the government should have considered the growing inflation rate while finalizing the taxes on tobacco products for fiscal year 2021-22.

He further said heavy taxation on tobacco products would not only reduce the tobacco consumption but will also keep the minors off from tobacco.

HDF CEO Azhar Saleem said the country was facing a severe shortage of funds to combat the health and poverty crisis. The increase in taxation and Federal Excise Duty (FED) would make more funds available for health and contribute to clean and healthy environment for future generations.

Pakistan National Heart Association Secretary General Sanaullah Ghuman said a lot needs to be done to safeguard Pakistani children from harms of tobacco. The government needs to remain steadfast and adopt a futuristic approach to overcome any challenges thrown by big tobacco industry.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2020