Speakers seek taxes raise to discourage smoking among youth

ISLAMABAD    -   Speakers at a policy dialogue on tobacco taxation have developed a consensus that the low cigarettes prices are the root cause of smoking trends especially among the youth and children, which needs to be discouraged by the authorities concerned in order to ensure increased tax collection as well as protecting the young generation from health diseases.

The policy dialogue was arranged by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) with the purpose to highlight the contribution of the tobacco industry to the national economy and the health cost burden due to tobacco use.

Speaking on the occasion, former caretaker information minister Murtaza Solangi said that low cigarettes prices were the reason why children and youth initiate smoking. He said that smoking-related illnesses and deaths incur substantial economic costs in Pakistan’s GDP every year. These increasing health cost burdens encompass healthcare expenses, productivity losses due to illness and premature death, as well as other indirect economic impacts, he added.

Solangi further stated that the tobacco epidemic requires comprehensive strategies encompassing public health interventions, strong tobacco control policies and awareness campaigns. By tackling tobacco use, Pakistan can mitigate economic losses associated with smoking-related illnesses, potentially alleviate the burden on its healthcare system and keep young people safe from the harms of tobacco use.

Country Head of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK), Malik Imran Ahmed, shared in detail that the recent Federal Excise Duty (FED) reforms on tobacco have demonstrated promising results in terms of revenue generation. Collections from July 2023 to January 2024 have already surpassed Rs 122 billion, with projections for the full year exceeding Rs 200 billion, marking a substantial increase compared to previous fiscal years.

Furthermore, these reforms are expected to generate an additional Rs 60 billion in GST on cigarettes for the fiscal year 2023-24.

The combined impact of FED and GST is estimated to be around Rs 88 billion, indicating a remarkable relative growth of nearly 49% compared to the previous year.

Dean Allied Healthcare Sciences, Lung Diseases and Tobacco Control, Health Services Academy, Prof. Dr. Matiur Rehman said that tobacco-related illnesses also known as non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart diseases contribute to over 160,000 deaths annually in Pakistan. These deaths not only affect individuals but also have long-term impacts on families, communities and the healthcare system, he noted.

Program Manager of SPARC, Dr. Khalil Ahmad Dogar said that the children of Pakistan were being targeted so that replacement smokers could be recruited. Around 1200 Pakistani children between the ages of 6–15 years start smoking every day.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt