Health activists laud IMF input for uniform tax on tobacco products

ISLAMABAD  -  Health activists have thrown their support behind the International Mone­tary Fund (IMF) recommendations for Pakistan, with a specific focus on restructuring tobacco taxation.

They expressed their view during an event titled ‘Fuelling Economic Growth through Increased Tobac­co Taxation’ organised by the Society for the Protec­tion of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) here on Friday.

In their remarks, the activists urged the govern­ment of Pakistan to transition to a Single Tier To­bacco Taxation System, thereby eliminating the sec­ond tier. This strategic move is deemed essential not only for boosting revenue but also for relieving the healthcare cost burdens imposed by tobacco-related illnesses.

In his remarks, Country Head Campaign for Tobac­co Free Kids (CTFK), Malik Imran Ahmed, highlighted the alignment between the IMF’s recommendations and the ongoing discussions with Pakistan. These discussions aim to tackle the nation’s fiscal and ex­ternal sustainability weaknesses while fostering eco­nomic recovery and inclusive growth. A key compo­nent involves strengthening public finances through gradual fiscal consolidation, broadening the tax base in undertaxed sectors, and improving tax adminis­tration to enhance debt sustainability. Imran empha­sized the urgent need to tie these objectives with to­bacco taxation, stressing the imperative of reforming Pakistan’s cigarette taxation system.

Malik Imran further emphasised that revitalizing Pakistan’s cigarette taxation system transcends mere fiscal considerations; it is a matter of urgent public health concern.

Dr Khalil Ahmad Dogar, Program Manager at SPARC, underscored the alarming prevalence of tobacco use in Pakistan. With approximately 31.9 million adults aged 15 years and above reported as current tobacco users, constituting nearly 19.7 per cent of the adult population, the dire consequences of tobacco con­sumption extend far beyond individual health. 

He stressed urgent need for immediate action to bridge the gap between tobacco tax revenue and healthcare costs. He advocated for the adoption of a Single Tier Tobacco Taxation System, as recommend­ed by the IMF, as a means to not only bolster revenue but also to alleviate the health and economic burdens associated with tobacco consumption.

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