ISLAMABAD: Society for the Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC) celebrated Universal Children’s Day 2022 by highlighting the need of imposing a Health Levy on tobacco products to safeguard health of Pakistani children. Shedding light on this year’s theme “Inclusion, for every child”, speakers said that the right to health, education, a clean environment, survival, and development are for all children and therefore they must be ensured. The speakers suggested the immediate implementation of Tobacco Health Levy Bill to generate 60 Billion Rupee revenue to save children from harms of tobacco.
Dr. Ziauddin Islam – Country Lead – Vital Strategies; Former Technical Head/Director, Tobacco Control Cell, Ministry of NHSR&C; Former Technical focal Person of Govt. of Pakistan for WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC); appreciated the participation of children on the occasion. He mentioned that, children are more affected by the exposure to tobacco as these products are inexpensive and easily available to them. According to statistics, 10.7 percent of Pakistani youth, including 6.6 percent girls and 13.3 percent boys, consume tobacco products due to cheap prices of tobacco. Moreover, approximately 1200 Pakistani children begin smoking every day. As a society we must take a step to save our children from tobacco consumption by implementing health levy on tobacco products.
Khalida Ahmed, Member Board of Directors SPARC, mentioned that nearly half, 45% of our population – are children under the age of 18 years. Child rights are recognized and protected under the global commitments made by Pakistan such as UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and Sustainable Development Goals. Tobacco is a pandemic which directly violates children’s right to life, survival and development, health, education, and access to clean and green public places.
Shariq Mehmood Khan, CEO Chromatic Trust, mentioned that tobacco industry is trying to conquer minds of children by manipulating them with different tactics of buying and using tobacco. In order to protect our children from tobacco, in 2019, Federal Cabinet approved a bill to impose Health Levy (Additional tax) on tobacco Products to decrease consumption and generate 60 Billion Pakistani Rupees per Year. However influenced by the tobacco industry, many policy makers have continuously block the bill and hence the economic cost of smoking in Pakistan has reached PKR 615.07 billion which is equal to 1.6% of Pakistan’s GDP but the revenue generated from the tobacco industry is only 20% of the total cost. Tobacco Industry has earned billions at expense of child health, it’s about time the industry pays it back.
Prof Ch Muhammad Akram, Director Punjab Group of Colleges, stated that this day is dedicated to our children and their rights which can’t be taken away from them by anyone. He stated that letting our children and youth destroyed by the hands of tobacco industry will be ultimate shame for society which has already struggled to deliver its promises to its children. Delay in the implementation of Tobacco Health Levy Bill will only highlight the casual attitude of our society towards child rights.
Khalil Ahmed Dogar, Program Manager SPARC, mentioned that Imposing Tobacco Health Levy is in interest of our children and our nation. Under WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Pakistan has committed to implement pro-child measures to safeguard children from harms of tobacco. Implementation of Tobacco Health Levy Bill gives us an opportunity to fulfill our promise to children.