ISLAMABAD: A number of organisations have shown disappointment on government’s action of opposing imposition of health hazard tax on tobacco and sugary drinks.

The organisations include Coalition for Tobacco Control Pakistan (CTC-Pak) and Society for Alternative Media and Research (SAMAR), members of Non-Communicative Diseases Alliance (NCDA).

In a joint statement they claimed, Adviser on Finance and Revenue Shaukat Tarin blocked a proposal of Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) regarding imposition of health hazard tax on tobacco and sugar-sweetened beverages.

They further said that Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan had raised the issue of health hazard tax at the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) but it put on hold for seven months.

Project Coordinator SAMAR and CTC-Pak Zeeshan Danish, while showing his concern over the finance ministry’s move to block the proposal, said it was tantamount to benefiting the tobacco industry and beverages industry.

“In the 2021 budget, no tax was raised on the tobacco products and now another delay is disappointing for anti-tobacco advocates,” he said.

Another Anti Tobacco Advocate Malik Imran, while talking to Dawn, said it was disappointing step as Pakistan had been spending over Rs600 billion on the treatment of diseases caused by tobacco but earns a little over Rs100 billion.

“Health levy should be imposed so that the revenue of the government could be increased and consumption of tobacco decreased which will ultimately reduce the expenditure on tobacco related diseases,” he said.

Former Technical Head of Ministry of Health’s Tobacco Control Cell and Focal Person on Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and illicit trade of cigarettes Dr Ziauddin Islam, while talking to Dawn, said in 2019 on the direction of Prime Minister Imran Khan health ministry proposed federal health levy.

“Later it was approved by the Federal Cabinet but was dropped in 2019 budget. Then again a bill was sent by the ministry to Ministry of Finance which sent it to Federal Board of Revenue and then to Ministry of Law. I personally believe that the tobacco industry is the major hurdle in its way and that’s why it is again blocked,” he said.

According to a statement, the tobacco industry’s quarterly financial reports showed that they were earning more profits, that means consumption of tobacco was because of availability of cheap cigarettes and health of people were being compromised. A high health cost is directly associated with use of tobacco products, it stated.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2021

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