ISLAMABAD: Though tobacco claims over 170,000 lives in the country every year, the government has not imposed any taxes on the product in the last three years.

Imposition of higher taxes is an effective policy to deter young people from getting involved in tobacco consumption.

This was highlighted by speakers at a seminar organised by Pakistan National Heart Association (Panah) on Friday.

They urged parliamentarians to play their role towards increasing taxes on tobacco products as availability of cheap cigarettes is the reason behind widespread smoking in Pakistan.

Panah General Secretary and Director Operations Sanaullah Ghumman presented evidence from a study conducted by Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (Pide) in 2021 which states that the health burden of tobacco products is Rs615 billion due to loss of productivity and tobacco-related diseases while the revenue collected from the tobacco industry is only Rs120 billion.

“Taxes will only help mitigate this burden. The government must raise at least 30 percent Federal Excise Duty (FED) on tobacco products,” he said.

It was pointed out that many Asian countries increased taxes on tobacco products at the beginning of 2022. In Indonesia, excise taxes on all levels of cigarettes have been increased by an average of 12pc since Jan 1, 2022; the aim of this is to keep Indonesian youth away from smoking. The government in Philippines raised excise tax on cigarettes by five Philippine pesos per pack, it was increased by 47pc in Turkey and 4pc in Russia.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), 10pc increase in taxes results in 8pc reduction in consumption, speakers said.

Parliamentarians expressed their views on the proposed tax hike to reduce the use of tobacco products. They said steps should be taken to stop the youth from using tobacco products in order to protect their health so they could become active citizens of the country.

For this, they said parents must play their part.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2022

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