ISLAMABAD: Seeing the economic woes of Pakistan, experts stressed the importance of pending Tobacco Health Levy Bill to ease Pakistan’s current economic crisis.
Malik Imran Ahmed, Country Head, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), mentioned that the destruction caused by tobacco induced non-communicable diseases to Pakistan’s healthcare system is a fact. But now, the situation has escalated into something far more difficult with the decline of national economy. Tobacco taxes in the country are low, with an average excise tax rate of only around 45%. Over time, cigarettes are becoming more affordable due to stagnant tobacco taxes that are not keeping pace with inflation and economic growth. Government needs to implement the pending health levy bill on tobacco. Once implemented it can help generate PKR 60 billion of revenue and can relieve our national economy from shrinking further.
Dr. Ziauddin Islam, Former Technical Head, Tobacco Control Cell, Ministry of Health, shared the statistics, 15% of male deaths and 1% of female deaths are related to tobacco use and exposure. Around 170,000 people die annually from tobacco-related diseases in Pakistan and almost 31,000 of these deaths are due to exposure to second-hand smoke. Not to forget that this number of death and disease is increasing day-by-day and is inclusive of children. Healthcare burden that comes from tobacco induced diseases is 615 billion rupees. Government should understand that by implementing health levy bill on tobacco, our economy will have long-term benefits.
Khalil Ahmed, Program Manager (SPARC), stated that children are the first ones to suffer from the hazards of tobacco use because of the easy availability of cigarettes and for children being the most vulnerable group of population. Health levy bill will ensure that cigarettes become expensive and out of reach of a child’s expense. In these crunch times, we can’t afford a healthcare crisis which tobacco industry is aiming to bring forth by its deadly products. It is responsibility of government to stand with children. Health Levy Bill must be presented in Parliament so it can become an Act and can be implemented across the country.