Three years of PTI yet no increase in tobacco tax

Our Correspondent

ISLAMABAD: Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) organized an online session on 03 Years of Naya Pakistan and Tobacco Taxation. Speakers expressed disappointment with the gov. for not increasing tobacco tax during their 3 years tenure while prices of all essential items including medicines were increased.

Malik Imran Ahmed, Country Head, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Pakistan said that PTI government completed three years in power, during this period, prices of all essential items were increased, whereas compared to the cigarettes which is a non-essential and hazardous commodity, there has been no tax change since 2017.

He further added already cigarette taxation in Pakistan is among the weakest in South Asia, and this makes them inexpensive for youth. Malik Imran added that the World Bank’s recommendations of 30 rupees increase in tax. An increase in prices will reduce tobacco consumption and will also generate revenue and reduce health costs.

Speaking to participants Program Manager SPARC, Khalil Ahmed said increasing taxes, Tobacco industry misguides govt over illicit trade, according to Tobacco Industry data in January 2021 illegal cigarette costs 40 billion to the economy and in February 2021 they quoted 77 billion without any justification, whereas according to an Independent Report illicit cigarette market is only 10-15%, he said.

He further told the media that the tobacco industry takes the lives of almost 170,000 people yearly and the total costs attributable to all smoking-related diseases and deaths in Pakistan for 2019 are Rs 615.07 billion (US$3.85 billion) whereas, the tobacco industry’s total tax contribution (120 billion in 2019) is approximately just 20 percent of smoking’s total cost.
He further stressed that the health and economic costs of tobacco use are more than five times the tax receipts, even though the tobacco industry is a major taxpayer in absolute terms, the tax contribution of the tobacco industry is a small fraction of what tobacco consumption costs the government and society.

Mr. Shariq Mahmood Khan said that the tobacco Industry perceives children as replacement smokers. Daily 1200 children initiate smoking which is an alarming situation. Recently tobacco and related industries have increasingly preyed on children and adolescents, engaging in advertising tactics like sponsorships and influencer marketing to target them directly that threaten their health. Govt must raise tobacco taxes to keep them out of reach of children.