High taxes on tobacco to help cut health cost: Expert

ISLAMABAD   -   To prevent fur­ther exposure of public health to se­rious diseases, the calls for raising taxes on tobacco are gaining mo­mentum as various stakeholders are of the view that the taxes are slapped on tobacco products the more effec­tive would be the mechanism to dis­courage cigarette smoking.

“Imposing increased taxes on to­bacco products would save lives as was advocated by the SDPI and the collected taxes would be a major source to ensure treatment of seri­ous health diseases related to ciga­rette smoking,” said Dr. Muhammad Zaman, Founding Chairman of the Department of Sociology at Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) and head of the Zaman Research Center, show­ing concern over the rising health cost of smokers.

“Taxing tobacco saves lives by re­ducing consumption and channel­ling resources towards essential public health initiatives,” he said.

Earlier, the SDPI had pointed out deficiencies in tax collection frame­work as well as the need for in­creasing taxes on tobacco products particularly cigarettes. The insti­tute had published a detailed re­port based on government data that says that the country lost Rs 567 in revenue during the last seven years. The SDPI’s report titled “To­bacco Taxation in Pakistan: Unrav­elling the revenue loss of Rs567b to the exchequer,” has unearthed the staggering financial toll inflicted by the tobacco industry on the nation­al exchequer.

Dr Zaman said that cigarette is a non-essential and perilous com­modity. He said affordability of cig­arettes is the major contributor to high consumption and ultimately diseases and fatalists in the country.

He said increasing prices of ciga­rettes was internationally proven strategy to curtail the consumption.

He endorsed the alignment of to­bacco taxation with the guidelines outlined by the World Health Organ­ization (WHO), emphasizing the im­perative to develop a long-term tax­ation policy grounded in global best practices and Article 6 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

The Islamabad-based think tank Capital Calling also reported that one in every ninety-four smokers was forced to quit smoking after a significant raise in taxes.

“More than 31 million Pakistani adults (15+) or about 19.7 percent of the total adults use some of tobac­co which is one of the highest in the world,” it further said.

Malik Imran, Country Head of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, highlighted the staggering econom­ic toll of tobacco consumption, cit­ing an annual loss of Rs 615 billion.

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