Low cigarette prices termed major cause of health issues

ISLAMABAD    -   Prices of cigarettes are cheaper in Pakistan than other countries of the region, which is the main cause of health issues, states Capital Calling, a network of academic researchers and professionals.

Citing different reports, it states that the cigarette which is sold for $1.21 in Pakistan is priced $3.03 in India, $2.62 in Bangladesh and $5.91 in Sri Lanka.

It also said that Pakistan registers higher number of smoking-caused deaths in the region, adding that tier 2 cigarettes are being sold for as low as $0.77 per pack here, which makes the population vulnerable to smoking.

It hails the fact that the government increased Federal Excise Duty (FED) in February through a mini-budget to raise taxes on the tobacco and discourage its consumption among the youth. Anti-tobacco activists said the policy had started bearing fruit, but multinational companies had already started lobbying the government to withdraw the taxes under the pretext of illicit cigarettes.

Anti-tobacco activist and Chromatic Trust CEO Shariq Khan said that over 1200 children in Pakistan were starting smoking daily and the number of smokers was increasing which should be discouraged through the taxes.

He lauded the government for raising the FED on the cigarettes, warning that the authorities should not retract the taxes on pressure of the multinational companies. He said the cigarette prices have been revised up across the globe every year, but in Pakistan the tax has been jacked up after four years. The anti-tobacco activists have urged the government to take measures to curb supply of smuggled cigarettes in the local market.

The government is expected to collect at least Rs180 billion in taxes from the tobacco companies after increase in the taxes, a Rs30 billion jump from the previous year, whilst some estimates put the enhanced tax collection of Rs60 billion additional.

He urged the policymakers to raise their voice against smoking and push the government to further levy taxes on tobacco products to discourage its consumption and increase its revenue to boost the fragile economy as per the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines.

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