Government urged to prioritize increasing taxes on cigarettes

ISLAMABAD  -  The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) shared sta­tistics highlighting the significant bur­den tobacco use imposes on Pakistan, both in terms of public health and eco­nomic costs. 

Instead of increasing taxes on utili­ties such as electricity and gas, the gov­ernment should prioritize increasing taxes on cigarettes to reduce the health cost burden and economic crisis, said in a press release issued here on Friday. 

Malik Imran Ahmad, Country Head of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), stated that Pakistan faced a considerable challenge in combating the tobacco menace. 

He also presented statistics showing a high prevalence of tobacco use in the country, with 31.9 million adults (15 years and above) consuming tobacco products, accounting for about 19.7% of the adult population.

He further added that tobacco-relat­ed illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart diseases, contributed to over 160,000 deaths annually in Pakistan. 

These deaths not only affect individ­uals but also have broader impacts on families, communities, and the health­care system.

Malik Imran proposed an immediate 30% FED increase in 2024, which could recover 19.8% of costs, narrowing the gap between health burdens and tax revenues. 

This tax proposal represents a clear ‘win-win’ in terms of health and reve­nue for the government and the people of Pakistan. 

Moreover, the recently initiated track & trace system on cigarettes is expect­ed to reduce counterfeiting, restrain tax evasion, and maintain accountabil­ity. Dr. Khalil Ahmad, Program Manager at SPARC, highlighted that low cigarette prices were the reason of children and youth to initiate smoking. 

He added that smoking-related ill­nesses and deaths incur substantial economic costs, amounting to 1.6% of Pakistan’s GDP each year.

These costs encompass healthcare expenses, productivity losses due to illness and premature death, as well as other indirect economic impacts. 

Additionally, he said that the tobac­co epidemic required comprehensive strategies encompassing public health interventions, strong tobacco control policies, and awareness campaigns.

By tackling tobacco use, Pakistan can mitigate economic losses associated with smoking-related illnesses, poten­tially alleviate the burden on its health­care system, and keep youth safe from the harms of tobacco use.

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