Govt urged to increase tobacco taxes by 30pc as per WHO advice

murree   –   Showing grave concerns over the rising number of cigarette smokers in the country, the stakeholders at a policy dialogue have urged the government to increase tobacco taxes by 30 per cent as it would contribute significantly in discouraging smoking especially among youth.

The policy dialogue on tobacco taxation was arranged by the Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC).

Giving an overview of the issue, Malik Imran Ahmad, Country Head Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, told the media that smoking is a silent killer in our society, with a total of 29 million active smokers. Of which 170,000 die each year due to tobacco-related diseases. Besides being a deadly substance tobacco causes a health burden of Rs615 billion due to loss of productivity and tobacco-related diseases, while the revenue collected from the tobacco industry is only Rs120 billion. Higher taxes on tobacco are essentials to mitigate this burden. Unfortunately, in the last three years taxes could not be increased. Increasing taxes on tobacco is the most effective policy to reduce consumption and generate additional funds for the government, he argued.

He said that Pakistan should increase the excise rates by at least 30% on cigarettes to ensure reduction in cigarette consumption and growth of tobacco revenue.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Ziauddin Islam, former Technical Head, Tobacco Control Cell, Ministry of Health & former technical focal person of government of Pakistan to WHO FCTC, said that tobacco consumption among youth in Pakistan is unacceptably high, and their use of this addictive product is harming their mental and physical health.

He explained that regrettably, cigarettes in our country are available at the cheapest rates in the region, which makes them affordable for youth. He demanded to raise tobacco taxes, as children are price sensitive, increasing tobacco taxes to 30% will help prevent youth from starting to smoke, he added.

Khalil Ahmed Dogar, Programme Manager SPARC, said it is necessary to constantly engage the media to help report evidence of the harms of smoking and support tobacco control policies. This tactic remains vital as the rise of social media and rapid circulation of misinformation threaten trust in public health advice.

The media needs to play its role and highlight the violations of tobacco control policies. The government needs to adopt a National Tobacco Control Policy that ensures the reduction in tobacco consumption, improved public health, and guaranteed child education and nutrition, he added.

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