Speakers for raising more taxes on tobacco items

Friday, Feb 23, 2024

Islamabad:Health advocates on Thursday stressed the need for raising tobacco taxes, specifically targeting cigarettes, in order to curb smoking.

In a statement, Malik Imran Ahmed, the Country Head of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), said that the policymakers can effectively curtail tobacco consumption by annual increments in cigarette taxes and making them less affordable over time. He emphasised the pivotal role of high cigarette taxes to deter smoking, particularly among the youth and individuals with lower incomes.

Ahmed also shed light on the staggering economic toll of smoking in Pakistan, which amounts to Rs615.07 billion. The economic cost of smoking surpasses the revenues generated by the tobacco industry, he added.

He referred to data from an international survey revealing that the aggregate annual economic costs attributable to smoking-related diseases and deaths, along with those associated with the three primary non-communicable diseases, collectively amount to 1.6% and 1.15% of Pakistan’s GDP, respectively.

This concerning pattern highlights the immediate requirement to implement yearly increments in cigarette taxes. Dr. Khalil Ahmad, Programme Manager at SPARC, elaborated on the multifaceted impacts of high cigarette taxes.

He emphasised the urgent need for proactive measures to mitigate the challenges concerning tobacco-related health issues on children and marginalised communities. He said that the quarters concerned can effectively curb smoking rates among youth, thereby safeguarding their health and well-being.

He highlighted that the financial burden imposed by tobacco-related illnesses disproportionately affects marginalised communities, exacerbating existing disparities in access to healthcare and socioeconomic opportunities. Dr. Ahmad said that the revenue generated from increased cigarette taxes can be allocated towards bolstering healthcare infrastructure, funding public health initiatives, and implementing comprehensive tobacco control programmes aimed at preventing tobacco use initiation and supporting smoking cessation efforts.