Govt urged to align tobacco tax at par with WHO guidelines

ISLAMABAD   -   Anti-tobacco activists have demanded of the government to align the tobacco tax in line with the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) to tackle the health and financial issues in the country.

“The government should address the pressing issue of massive tobacco consumption among youth by raising tobacco taxes up to 70 percent of the retail price – a bench mark set by the WHO,” said Country Head of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK), Malik Imran Ahmed while showing concern over the rising health issues related to tobacco consumption.

The proposal comes as government contemplates options to increase revenue collection in the next budget ahead of negotiations with the IMF for a long-term bailout programme.

Pakistan has two-tiered system of Federal Excise Duty (FED) on cigarettes. The country made significant strides and increased the FED on cigarettes in 2022-23. The current FED share in retail prices is 48 percent and 68 percent respectively for low and high tiers. Malik Imran Ahmed was of the view, “It is high time to build on the gains and cut the number of smokers.”

He said that more than 60 percent population of the country comprises youth and it was imperative for the government protect them from the ills of tobacco use.  The country head CTFK proposed 37 percent increase in tobacco taxes keeping in view market dynamics, gains of previous tax adjustments and IMF’s recommendation of taxing non-essential items including cigarettes.

Tobacco consumption is responsible for approximately 160,000 deaths annually, accounting for a considerable 1.4% of the country’s GDP in healthcare expenses each year.

He referred to the surveys and studies including the one by International Monetary Fund (IMF) which said that cigarette consumption in Pakistan had reduced by at least 20 percent after the prices were increased.

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