Parliamentarians & rights activists urge govt. to increase surcharge on tobacco to help children in education

Representational Photo TD

ISLAMABAD: Seeing the plight of children education in Pakistan where 22.5 million children are out of school, parliamentarians, anti tobacco activists and education advocates suggested to the government to increase surcharge on tobacco products to help control the use of tobacco and invest in children’s education.

The online session titled “Briefing session to discuss Finance Bill 2020 recommendation for tobacco taxation” was organised by Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC).

Malik Imran Ahmed, Country head Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) appreciated the suggestions given by Senators Mohammad Ali Khan Saif and Kulsoom Parveen in the Finance Bill 2020, suggesting increase in the FED on tobacco products. He further added, this suggestion, if implemented, would be a key step towards paving a bright future for children of our country.

Appreciating these recommendations, Sajjad Ahmed Cheema, Executive Director, SPARC said that this is much required step in improving children’s health. He added that surcharge of Rs10 for each cigarette pack can generate up to Rs. 40 billion in revenues. This will not only take cigarettes out of reach of children but it will also provide much needed funds for improvement of child healthcare system in Pakistan. Khalil Ahmed, Manager Research & Communication, SPARC also added that according to National Nutrition Survey 2018 Pakistan is facing the triple burden of malnutrition. The survey found 40.2% of children under five years of age are stunted, while 17.7% suffer from wasting. Rs. 40 billion generated from Tobacco taxes can be directed towards funding health programs and government commitments such as those defined under National Health Vision 2016 – 2025. Tobacco is a non-essential product that in fact increases health burden and must be discouraged by implementing higher taxes.             

In the recommendations submitted to Senate in the Finance Bill 2020, Senator Muhammad Ali Khan Saif and Senator Kulsoom Parveen urged the government to increase FED and implement a surcharge on tobacco products. The proposed recommendations including raising FED on Tier-1 up to Rs. 30 per packet. This tier comprises of the top brands, which captures 10 per cent of the market share without any significant competition. Tier-2 tier comprises of 90 per cent of the market share. The senators have proposed an increase of Rs. 10 per packet on this tier.