Increasing tobacco price to help meet IMF requirements

The increase in tax on tobacco products is being seen as too little and too late as health activists have urged the government implement health levy on tobacco products to meet the criteria set by International Monitory Fund (IMF).

Malik Imran Ahmed, country head, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, has stated that the government has been repeatedly talking about hard choices to meet IMF’s requirements. He said increasing tax on tobacco sector will not only help solve our economic woes but also benefit public at large.

Malik Imran mentioned that tobacco induced disease causes an annual economic burden of 615 billion which is 1.6% of Pakistan’s GDP. On the other hand, the revenue generated from the tobacco industry is 120 billion. When a product is causing this much health loss, a levy must be implemented on it. Pakistan moved in this direction in 2019 by tabling a tobacco health levy bill but it hasn’t seen the light of the day due to continuous interference of tobacco industry.

Prof Dr Muhammad Zaman, the founding chairman of Department of Sociology at Quaid-i-Azam University, said that steps are needed to discourage smoking among youth. Easy and cheap availability of tobacco products is discouraged all through the world. He added that Pakistan needs to follow the developed countries in putting a levy on cigarettes in general.

According to an estimate, tobacco products cause 170,000 deaths every year in Pakistan. On an average, Pakistani smokers spend 10% of their average monthly income on cigarettes. Due to cheap and easy affordability nearly 1200 children begin smoking every day in the country. A struggling economy such as Pakistan can’t afford this much loss of precious human and finance resources.

Khalil Ahmed Dogar, Program Manager, SPARC, stated that this challenging financial situation requires sustainable measures. Pakistan is seeking foreign aid to rescue its citizens from financial disaster. Therefore, the government should take those decisions which can benefit the health and wealth of the public. One-time measures will bring us back to square one and we will have to ask for foreign aid again. 

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