ISLAMABAD: The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) has demanded of the new government to generate revenue by increasing tobacco taxes.

It has recommended increasing Federal Excise Duty (FED) on Tobacco Products by 30pc to generate additional revenue that can be used for the well-being of people since the budget is a crucial challenge for the government.

Sparc Programme Manager Khalil Ahmed Dogar stated that tobacco taxes were the most cost-effective tobacco control measure.

“The use of tobacco causes an annual economic burden of Rs615 billion, which was 1.6pc of Pakistan’s GDP, which leads to high healthcare costs and productivity loss,” he said.

He stressed that the health and economic costs of tobacco use were more than five times the tax receipts, even though the tobacco industry was a major taxpayer in absolute terms, the tax contribution of the tobacco industry was a small fraction of what tobacco consumption costs the government and society. “Since taxes on tobacco didn’t interest the previous government, it’s an opportunity for the sitting govt. to generate revenue by increasing taxes on tobacco and tame the deficit,” he said.

Former technical head Tobacco Control Cell (TCC) Ministry of Health Dr Ziauddin Islam said the tobacco industry misguides government over illicit trade.

“According to Tobacco Industry data in January 2021 illegal cigarette costs Rs40 billion to the economy, and in February 2021 they quoted Rs77 billion without any justification, whereas according to an independent report illicit cigarette market is only 10-15pc,” he said.

He further said that tobacco use had direct and indirect effects on children’s health. “Daily 1,200 children initiate smoking. Increasing tobacco taxes will bring this number down. Raising taxation on tobacco is the most suitable measure of reducing tobacco use and associated health risks, especially among low-income populations,” he said.

CEO of Chromatic Trust Shariq Mahmood Khan said the tobacco hazard can be controlled by increasing taxes and creating awareness. Recently tobacco and related industries have increasingly preyed on children and adolescents, engaging in advertising tactics like sponsorships and influencer marketing to target them directly that threatens their health.

He appealed to the new government to raise awareness and help the directorate of health to implement tobacco control laws and increase tobacco taxes to reduce consumption and generate additional income.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2022

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