Anti-Tobacco Activists Request Govt to Increase Taxes on Cigarettes

The Society for the Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC) Wednesday organized a dialogue on saving the young generation from tobacco hazards through sustainable measures.

Anti-tobacco activists showed their concern regarding the high prevalence of smoking among youth and requested the government to increase the tobacco tax by 30 percent as per the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) to reduce the consumption.

Former Head of the Tobacco Control Cell Pakistan, Dr. Ziauddin Islam, speaking on the occasion, said youth is the main victim of the tobacco industry. The industry considers adolescents as replacement smokers.

He said that, unfortunately, cigarettes in our country are available at some of the cheapest rates in the region, which makes them affordable for youth. As children are price sensitive, increasing tobacco taxes to 30 percent will help keep youth away from smoking, he added.

He said that tobacco taxation is a major component of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy. To completely understand the benefits, it is necessary to understand the impact of increased taxes among high-risk subpopulations. Raising taxes on tobacco is widely regarded as the most effective and cost-effective measure to reduce tobacco use. Higher cigarette taxation can serve a dual objective of public health promotion and revenue generation in Pakistan.

SPARC Program Manager, Khalil Ahmed, said 1,200 Pakistani children between the ages of 6-15 years start smoking every day. It is very disturbing that 15.3 percent of teens start smoking before the age of 15, he added. He mentioned the health cost due to tobacco-related diseases is Rs. 615 billion which is 1.6 percent of Pakistan’s GDP.

Chromatic Trust Chief Executive Officer, Shariq Mehmood Khan, said smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths globally. He said that among various policy interventions to reduce cigarette consumption, tobacco taxation is the most effective. Evidence suggests that higher cigarette taxes deter smoking initiation and reduce cigarette consumption.