ISLAMABAD: While government has been doing efforts to make the life of common people easy, health advocates have suggested to the government to increase Federal Excise Duty (FED) on hazardous products.

The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) has suggested that during the upcoming budget FED on cigarettes should be increased to provide immediate relief to the citizens.

Programme Manager SPARC Khalil Ahmed Dogar said tobacco control should be a key priority area for the government for 2022-23 budget.

“In Pakistan, the number of smokers has reached up to 29 million many of whom have become victims of cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, and chronic lung diseases. These are collectively responsible for almost 68pc of all deaths in Pakistan as 170,000 people die every year due to tobacco use. This consumption causes an annual economic burden of Rs615 billion which is 1.6pc of Pakistan’s GDP. On the other hand, the revenue generated from the tobacco industry is Rs120 billion,” he said.

He said Pakistan’s economy had suffered due to coronavirus pandemic and global political situation, therefore it was important for the government to increase tax on tobacco products to make them less affordable.

Country Head Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Malik Imran mentioned that cigarette prices in Pakistan were the lowest among the region mainly because FED on cigarettes has not increased since July 2019.

“Such key decision which has huge implications on health and economy should have been taken on basis of scientific research rather than data provided by tobacco industry,” he said.

Quoting research by Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC), Mr Imran said in order to meet the international standard, Pakistan should increase FED by 30pc.

According to SPDC’s research, 30pc increase in FED would result in 200,000 fewer smokers and an increase of more than Rs27 billion in excise tax revenue. Additionally government must ensure that inflation is automatically adjusted in the prices.

Shariq Mahmood Khan, CEO Chromatic Trust, said that imposing higher federal excise duty will help Pakistan improve its international standing.

“Tobacco consumption has direct consequences on a country’s performance on SDGs on poverty, health, education and economic growth. Therefore it is important that government takes this much needed step required to provide remedy to the people, and to increase Pakistan’s international prestige,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2022

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