The Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC) has urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to intervene in the delay of imposition of health Levy on tobacco products.
Addressing an online briefing, organized by SPARC, the Country Head of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Malik Imran Ahmed shared that in June 2019, the federal cabinet decided to implement a health levy on tobacco products. This decision was made to protect the health of low-income groups and children by taking tobacco products out of their spending reach. Unfortunately, some members of the government have repeatedly blocked this move because for them a flourishing tobacco industry is more important than public health, Imran claimed.
He said that development at the cost of public health is a mere fantasy. He mentioned that the tobacco industry boasts to be the biggest taxpayer in the country, but in reality, its contribution to the national exchequer is far less than required. He said, quoting the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), that tobacco consumption costs the country Rs. 615 billion in the form of health burden due to tobacco-related diseases and lost productivity, On the contrary, the revenue generated from tobacco taxation is only Rs. 115 billion.
Imran said that taxation on cigarettes in Pakistan is among the weakest in the world, and according to World Health Organization, Pakistan should increase the prices of cigarettes by at least Rs. 30 per pack to reduce consumption and health costs.
SPARC Program Manager Khalil Ahmed while speaking said that the efforts of Prime Minister Imran Khan to improve the economy of Pakistan are commendable, however, public health is also a promise which the prime minister has made many times.
He said children are the most affected group from tobacco consumption because the industry targets them to be a replacement of the existing smokers. Because of easy and cheap affordability, around 1,200 children in Pakistan begin smoking every day. Khalil urged the prime minister to intervene in this matter and save 170,000 precious lives which are lost each year due to tobacco-related diseases.