Ex-health minister suggests high taxes to control smoking

ISLAMABAD  -  Expressing grave con­cern over the increas­ing trend of tobacco con­sumption among youth, former federal minis­ter for National Health Services, Dr Nadeem Jan, has suggested that smoking habits can be discouraged and serious health hazards can be minimized remarkably if cigarette taxation is in­creased significantly by 50 percent. 

“Higher taxes are a via­ble option to make ciga­rettes less accessible and to combat tobacco-relat­ed health issues effec­tively,” the former health minister remarked this while speaking at an an­ti-tobacco awareness session hosted by the Centre for Research and Dialogue and IBC here on Saturday.

Dr Nadeem Jan criti­cally contested the cig­arette industry’s claims that higher taxes would lead to a surge in illic­it trade, labelling these assertions as mislead­ing tactics aimed at per­suading the government to lower taxes on tobac­co products. 

He pointed out the ad­verse impact of such mis­information on state rev­enues and public health. He highlighted the ef­forts of the health minis­try to implement policies to reduce smoking rates in the country.

The former minister advocated for the adop­tion of a single-tier tax­ation system to replace the current multi-tier system, which was influ­enced by the cigarette in­dustry under the pretext of combating illicit trade. 

He explained that the introduction of a third-tier in 2017 had led to a significant drop in gov­ernment revenue as the national exchequer suf­fered a staggering Rs 567 billion loss during last seven years.

Dr Nadeem Jan while reiterating Pakistan’s commitment to the Framework Conven­tion on Tobacco Control (FCTC) called for a uni­fied pricing system to simplify regulation and discourage tobacco use. 

In his remarks, Country Head of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Malik Imran, also spoke on the session, emphasising the economic burden of to­bacco consumption on the country, estimated at an annual loss of Rs615 billion. 

Both the speakers un­derscored the necessity for stringent regulation and public awareness by using social media plat­forms.

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