The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) has called for the implementation of the pending Health Levy Bill (2019) on tobacco products. The federal cabinet approved the health levy back in June 2019, but unfortunately, it is yet to be implemented.
Malik Imran Ahmed, Country Head, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), stated that tobacco control requires making long and short-term economic decisions. Pakistan has recently increased the prices of tobacco products but it isn’t enough to cover the damage caused by the deadly tobacco products.
The tobacco industry is still on the winning side because of cheaper products and tax-evasive tactics. In addition, there’s a need for a permanent check on the tobacco industry. He mentioned that items of daily use can be made affordable for people by increasing taxes on unnecessary items such as cigarettes. It is high time that the government slaps sin taxes e.g., health levy tax on cigarettes. This will minimize the burden on Pakistan’s current economic hardships and will give the general population much-needed relief.
Khalil Ahmed Dogar, Program Manager SPARC, stated that cigarettes are a deadly plague upon the human race that has killed more people in the 20th century alone than in many deadly wars. Yet the product is being manufactured locally and sold everywhere in the country without any additional health surcharge applied to it.
Government can earn nearly an additional Rs. 60 billion annually as revenue if the pending Health Levy Bill (2019) is imposed on cigarettes.
He further said that the Federal Board of Revenue has estimated that it will collect Rs. 15 billion in additional taxes through the improved GST rate of 25 percent in the four-month period. By implementing a health levy bill, it can have billions more in the national exchequer. Since the tobacco industry is eager to cause our health and economy damage, it shouldn’t have any reservations about paying for it.