Tobacco taxation can bring billions and save youth

By: Our Correspondent

ISLAMABAD: Anti-tobacco activists urged the government to increase the tax on tobacco products that will bring billions to Pakistan and can save youth from its hazardous effects. They said that Pakistan’s economy can be revived by raising taxes on tobacco products and it will be a relief for inflation hit people when they have seen unprecedented hikes in petroleum, gas, and electricity prices and the government is struggling to keep the subsequent rise in the cost of commodities in check.

Malik Imran Country lead for ‘Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids’, said that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his cabinet members have repeatedly stated that the government won’t shy from taking unpopular decisions to strengthen Pakistan’s economy. In order to fill the state’s coffers, government has tried raising petroleum prices and reducing imports but one of the biggest sources of revenue remains untapped. Mr. Imran alluded to tobacco taxation which has remained stagnant in Pakistan for the last 4 years. He mentioned that the use of tobacco causes annual an economic burden of 615 billion which is 1.6% of Pakistan’s GDP. On the other hand, the revenue generated from the tobacco industry is 120 billion. This situation calls for an immediate increase because in Pakistan, tobacco products are being sold at lower rates compared to other South Asian countries.

Khalil Ahmed Dogar, said the there’s no justification for not raising taxation on tobacco products which are non-essential and hazardous items and cause 170,000 deaths every year. On an average, Pakistani smokers spend 10% of their average monthly income on cigarettes. Due to cheap and easy affordability nearly 1200 children begin smoking every day in the country. A struggling economy such as Pakistan can’t afford this much loss of precious youth and financial resources. Therefore tobacco products should be heavily taxed as it is the most effective strategy to safe public health and generate revenue.