By: Sarmad Shahbaz
ISLAMABAD, 31 May, 2019: Laws exist in Pakistan, only thing is their implementation, government is planning to impose taxes on tobacco industry in the upcoming budget which is appreciable if it is really the case said speakers in seminar to mark “World no tobacco day” organized by Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC).
Mr. Riaz Fatyana, Chairman Law and Justice Standing Committee said Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved a plan to increase taxes on the cigarette manufacturing industry in the upcoming budget for 2019-20 in a bid to enhance revenue collection and discourage its use. He added Prime minister also gave the go- ahead for imposing health tax of Rs.10 per pack of cigarette and earnings from that would be used by the health ministry on welfare projects. He further shared Prime minister Imran Khan also gave approval for rolling back the third slab of federal excise duty introduced by the PML-N government, which brought down the duty and led to a reduction of billions of rupees in revenue collection. Mr. Riaz Fatyana added Prime Minister had taken the lead in the initiative and stated that no one would be allowed to play with the health of people.
Mr. Malik Imran from Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Pakistan office appreciated the Prime Minister Khan’s decision for imposing health tax of Rs.10 per pack of cigarette, approval for rolling back the third slab of federal excise duty introduced by the last government and his commitment regarding health of people. He further added the tobacco industry has always portrayed high figures of illicit trade to strengthen their business against tobacco control legislation and enforcement of laws. Malik Imran said Government should be aware about obsolete arguments and propaganda of tobacco industry and need to ignore these arguments.
Sajjad Ahmad Cheema Executive Director, SPARC said that it is appreciable that the government has given a go-ahead to introduce stringent reforms against tobacco-use. One will have to wait to see whether action is actually taken. Around eight million people around the world die each year due to tobacco smoking, while around 80 percent of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers suffer from cardiovascular and respiratory problems. An estimated 1200 children take up smoking every day in Pakistan. Moreover, the enforcement of strict health and safety practices in the tobacco cultivation industry in Pakistan is also essential, where the incidence of nicotine poisoning remains high. What is important is to build a successful campaign that creates a consensus that discourages tobacco-use at source.
Colonel (R) Azhar Saleem – CEO Human Development Foundation (HDF) said Pakistan is the 8th largest tobacco growing country in the world and produced about 116,016 tons of tobacco. There is no provision in current law for estimating, monitoring and regulating the contents of cigarettes. Furthermore, there is no laboratory available in the country to monitor and evaluate the contents of cigarettes. These cigarettes contain the significant levels of chemicals and nicotine, its combustion in the presence of paper of cigarettes further increases its hazards. Cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, cause many diseases and reduces the health of smokers in general. Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death.
Mr. Rao Sarwar Munir, senior journalist, Mr. Iftikhar Shirazi, Bureau Chief Dawn news TV, Mr. Arshad Waheed Chaudhry, special correspondent geo news also spoke on the occasion and highlighted the harms of tobacco use.