Today's Paper | April 17, 2024

Published 22 Feb, 2024 07:53am

Health activists want tobacco taxes increased

ISLAMABAD: Health activists have highlighted the critical need for raising tobacco taxes, specifically focusing on cigarettes.

As per a press release by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), the activists underscored that such measures were indispensable for generating significant revenue streams, crucial for funding essential public services, including healthcare, and bolstering the economy.

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) Country Head Malik Imran Ahmed emphasised the pivotal role of heightened cigarette taxes in deterring smoking, particularly among youth and individuals with lower incomes.

“By instituting annual increments in cigarette taxes, policymakers can effectively curtail tobacco consumption by rendering cigarettes less affordable over time.

This strategic approach holds the promise of substantially ameliorating public health outcomes by mitigating smoking-related diseases and reducing healthcare expenditures,” he said.

Mr Ahmed also shed light on the staggering economic toll of smoking in Pakistan, which amounted to Rs 615.07 billion (US$3.85 billion), equivalent to 1.6 percent of the country’s GDP, adding that the economic costs of smoking far exceeded the revenues generated by the tobacco industry.

The CTFK country head further referenced data from an international survey revealing that the aggregate annual economic costs attributable to smoking-related diseases and deaths, along with those associated with the three primary non-communicable diseases (NCDs), collectively amount to 1.6pc and 1.15pc of Pakistan’s GDP, respectively.

“This alarming trend underscores the urgent imperative for escalating cigarette taxes annually to alleviate the strain on Pakistan’s GDP, necessitating prompt governmental action,” he said.

SPARC Programme Manager Dr Khalil Ahmad, elaborated on the multifaceted implications of escalating cigarette taxes.

Highlighting the profound impact of tobacco-related health issues on children and marginalised communities, Dr Khalil emphasised the urgent need for proactive measures to mitigate these challenges.

SPARC programme manager stressed that by augmenting cigarette taxes, the government can effectively curb smoking rates among youth, thereby safeguarding their health and well-being.

Furthermore, Dr Khalil highlighted that the financial burden imposed by tobacco-related illnesses disproportionately affected marginalised communities, exacerbating existing disparities in access to healthcare and socioeconomic opportunities.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2024

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