ISLAMABAD            -          Anti-tobacco activists have demanded of the govern­ment to at least Rs.20 increase in the Federal Excise Duty (FED) on cigarettes in the budget 2020-21 to en­hance revenue collection and discourage tobacco use.

The demand was raised at a joint pre-budget press conference held by the Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC), Human Development Foundation (HDF) and Pakistan National Heart Asso­ciation (PANAH).

On the occasion, Sajjad Ahmed Cheema, Executive Di­rector, SPARC said, the prices of tobacco products are still cheap which makes it accessible to especially minors.

He further said that civil society organizations are anxious for better future of Pakistan and added heavy taxation on tobacco products will not only reduce the tobacco consumption but also discourage the acces­sibility especially of minors to tobacco.

Azhar Saleem, CEO HDF, said that the country is facing a severe shortage of funds to combat the COVID-19. He further added that through changes in the taxation structure, tobacco industry has been al­legedly evading taxes at the cost of the lives of people. The government needs to keep in mind the growing inflation rate while finalizing the taxes on tobac­co products for fiscal year 2020-2021. He urged the government to increase FED on tobacco products by Rs20 for each slab of tobacco tax structure.

Secretary General PANAH, Sana Ullah Ghuman, said the government needs to adopt a futuristic ap­proach and channelize the additional revenues into situations where financial setbacks are faced such as the current pandemic of coronavirus. This addition­al revenue will continue in lessening the financial crunch that the country is facing.