‘Higher tobacco taxes improve revenues, public health’
PESHAWAR: Speakers at a media awareness session said higher taxes on tobacco products created a win-win situation as these resulted in increasing revenues and also improving public health due to reduction in tobacco consumption.
The session was jointly organized by the Human Development Foundation (UDF), Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) and Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) with an objective to highlight the growing need for enforcement of Health Levy Bill on cigarettes.
Speaking on the occasion, HDF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Azhar Saleem said the use of tobacco had a significant impact on the economic costs of a country including the health care costs for treating tobacco related diseases and damages to workforce productivity.
“The annual economic cost of smoking in Pakistan is as high as Rs143 billion”, he remarked.
He said countries like the Philippines had implemented health tax on tobacco products calling it “Sin tax” which has emerged as a sustainable income source to fund the national healthcare programmes.
Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) Executive Director Sajjad Cheema said it was imperative to save the youth and children from tobacco, adding that increasing the tobacco prices was one of the effective measures in this regard.
He said with imposition of higher taxes, prices of cigarettes would increase, hence limit the access of people to it and ultimately reduce the overall consumption.
He said representative of campaign for tobacco free kids (CTFK) Malik Imran had been rightly emphasizing that taxation was a proven effective measure to control the growing consumption of tobacco.
He repeatedly mention that it had almost been a year that health levy bill was approved by the Cabinet, however it was not included in the Financial Bill 2019-20.
Senior Economist of Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC) Waseem Saleem said the large fiscal imbalance in Pakistan requires collection of greater tax revenues.
The level of under reporting of cigarette production in Pakistan had significant negative implication for government tax revenue, he added.
He said the revenues loss due to undeclared production was estimated to be Rs31 billion while by including GST revenue, it became Rs37 billion.
He said tobacco taxation would positively contribute to government revenues and promote the government public health objectives. – APP