Tobacco control activists urged the government to increase federal excise duty (FED) on tobacco products in Pakistan, including smokeless tobacco products, at a seminar held in Islamabad.
Over 22 million (19 percent) Pakistani adults currently use some form of tobacco. Almost one-third of Pakistani men (32.4 percent) and 5.7 percent of women smoke tobacco.
The advocates of tobacco control demanded at least a 30 percent increase in the federal excise duty (FED) for each slab of cigarettes to enhance revenue collection and lower the consumption of tobacco, especially among the youth.
There are two tax slabs for cigarettes. FED of Rs. 33 is imposed on cigarettes costing less than Rs. 90 per packet, while Rs. 90 FED is charged on cigarettes with a price of Rs. 90 and above per packet.
Team Lead at Human Development Foundation (HDF), Syed Anis Bilal, said that an increase in the exchange rate of the Dollar affected prices of basic goods, but prices of tobacco products remained the same.
He said that civil society organizations wanted a better future for Pakistan and were seriously concerned regarding why heavy taxes were not imposed on the tobacco industry.
He also said it would reduce the health bill of the government, besides contributing to a clean and healthy environment. The government needs to keep in mind the growing inflation rate while finalizing taxes on tobacco products for the fiscal year 2021-22, he added.
Sanaullah Ghumman, the secretary-general of the Pakistan National Heart Association, said that the government needs to adopt a futuristic approach and implement tobacco control policies.
Pakistan has one of the cheapest rates of cigarettes in the region, and therefore, one of the highest numbers of tobacco smokers.
As per the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO), Pakistan must increase taxes on tobacco to make the products less affordable and lower its overall consumption in the country, he said.
Malik Imran, Representative of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), said that according to WHO estimates, 44 million children between the ages of 13 and 15 are smoking, and many more pre-teens are likely to join this number.
According to a study, tobacco has a health burden of Rs. 193 billion in Pakistan due to its impacts on health and loss of productivity. It is time the government of Pakistan recognizes tobacco as an epidemic and takes strict policy action to control its spread.
Tobacco control activists stated that the government needs to keep the growing inflation rate in view when finalizing the taxes on tobacco products for the fiscal year 2021-2022.