Health activists stress need for increasing taxes on cigarettes

They urged the government to prioritize health and economic agendas

ISLAMABAD  -  Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), urged the government to prioritize health and economic agendas by increasing taxes on cigarettes.

This call comes in tandem with the imminent commencement of negotia­tions on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Agreement and the cru­cial Budget Planning for 2024-25.

With a focus on long-term public health and economic stability, Ma­lik Imran Ahmad, Country Head of CTFK, emphasized the interconnect­ed relationship between reduced to­bacco consumption, improved health outcomes, and enhanced revenue streams. He affirmed that prioritizing tobacco taxation in the forthcoming budget would not only safeguard pub­lic health but also propel the nation towards achieving its fiscal targets and commitments.

To propel health and economy for­ward, Imran Ahmad advocated for a 26.6% Federal Excise Duty (FED) in­crease on cigarettes, a move project­ed to recuperate 19.8% of healthcare expenditures associated with smok­ing-related diseases.

He further emphasized that this measure aligns with the impending IMF Agreement negotiations, contrib­uting substantially to revenue genera­tion crucial for budgetary allocations.

In his statement, Ahmad highlight­ed that the government would benefit from increased revenue from tobacco products, potentially averting the need for an increase in petrol prices and subsequent rises in commodity prices. This strategic approach would provide much-needed relief to the public amidst economic challenges.

Dr. Khalil Ahmad Dogar, Program Manager at SPARC, stressed the piv­otal role of increased cigarette taxes in deterring tobacco use among youth and low-income individuals. 

Dr. Dogar reiterated that higher prices serve as effective deterrents, particularly for price-sensitive de­mographics such as youth and the low-income population. He urged the government to leverage tobacco taxation not only to curb smoking initiation among youth but also to fortify public health initiatives and healthcare services.

He emphasized that policymakers must fulfill their electoral promises by taking decisive action against the tobacco industry. This includes con­tinuous and consistent raises in to­bacco taxation, the implementation of a single tax tier system, across-the-board implementation of the Track and Trace System, and main­taining a clear separation from the tobacco industry.

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