Tobacco Toll

In an unfortunate turn of events for smokers around the nation, it seems that the call for increased taxation on tobacco products is garnering heavy support from our state and its public health ministries. Previously our health ministry and the WHO were in mutual agreement over a surge in taxation rates; the only question was how high this surge ought to be.

A new wave of advocacy from health NGOs like the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) demand a substantial 26% tax raise on tobacco in the upcoming federal budget, arguing that the sheer number of adults who identify as regular tobacco users – nearly 20% of the nation’s population – have made the need for action all the more glaring.

One of the biggest issues is simply the affordability of cigarettes. For vulnerable demographics like the youth and those with limited finances, smoking is the easiest drug of choice, but it also makes the loss of innocent lives from smoking-illnesses quite preventable. The easiest way to manipulate these figures would be to increase the price – taxation just adds in an extra incentive to generate revenue. Beyond this, comprehensive tobacco control strategies must encompass not only taxation but also public education campaigns, smoke-free policies, and support for smoking cessation programs.

Smoking-related illnesses claim over 160,000 lives annually, representing a substantial 1.6% of the nation’s GDP each year. Alarmingly, in the fiscal year 2022-23, cigarette taxes covered only 16% of these expenses, marking a concerning decline from 19.5% in 2019. That being said, if we adopt the proposed 26% FED increase for the fiscal year ahead, not only could it help recoup a substantial portion of healthcare costs, but it could also discourage hundreds of thousands of individuals from smoking. The projected revenue here is all the more reason for the state to begin implementing this policy immediately, as this will also play a crucial role in funding various public health initiatives like rehabilitation facilities in multiple cities – to tackle the problem of drug and narcotic abuse in the nation as a whole.

While taxation is a key concern here, we need to heed the warning call from our NGOs and address the root causes of this issue. We should work towards a tobacco-free society, and promoting healthier lifestyle choices are essential steps towards this objective.

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