ISLAMABAD: Anti-tobacco activists and experts on Tuesday asked the government to enforce single-tier taxation system on tobacco products in the upcoming budget.
The experts have said that different taxation tiers had only benefitted multinational tobacco companies to evade taxes and contribute to increasing the number of smokers in the country.
Addressing a webinar country representative of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Malik Imran said Pakistan had not increased tax on tobacco products for the last four years while prices of all other commodities have increased manifold due to inflation.
He said the government should enforce a single-tier taxation system in the budget to save youth and kids from becoming smokers.
He questioned the multinational tobacco companies’ resistance to the single-tier taxation system, saying the consumers would pay the higher taxes and the companies should back it.
The speakers said a recent research study by The University of Edinburgh had asked Pakistani government to reform the tobacco taxation policy, which would not only enhance revenue collections from the sector but it was also a proven strategy to avoid tobacco-related mortality and morbidity.
The study added Pakistan had high levels of tobacco use compared to many other countries.
The study said heavy taxes also helped deter youth to start smoking and smokers to quit or decrease smoking due to increase in cigarette prices.
Malik Imran also said that the government should integrate tobacco control while improving and formulating strategies to combat Covid-19 in the future.
Data on tobacco use should be integrated into Covid-19 data collection from cases or patients admitted to hospital.
There should be official dissemination of information relating to the hazards of tobacco use and particularly with reference to Covid-19, through mass media and regular communication by relevant government agencies.
It said the tobacco use results in premature mortality and morbidity globally to an extent that far exceeds that of Covid-19.
Global deaths from tobacco account for 7 million people per year. The study said the government must not neglect their responsibility to prevent premature deaths from tobacco and the morbidity associated with tobacco use.
Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2021