Expert call for taxing tobacco to help channelize public health initiatives

Expert call for taxing tobacco to help channelize public health initiatives

ISLAMABAD, MAR 19 /DNA/ – The calls for raising taxes on tobacco are gaining momentum as Dr. Muhammad Zaman endorses the policy that imposing taxes on tobacco saves lives as was advocated by the SDPI.

Dr. Zaman, the founding chairman of the Department of Sociology at Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) and head of the Zaman Research Center underlined the need for imposing more taxes to save lives.

“Taxing tobacco saves lives by reducing consumption and channeling resources towards essential public health initiatives,” he said.

The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) had earlier pointed out deficiencies in tax collection framework as well as the need for increasing taxes on tobacco products particularly cigarettes. The institute had published a detailed report based on government data that says that the country lost Rs 567 in revenue during the last seven years.

The report titled “Tobacco Taxation in Pakistan: Unraveling the revenue loss of Rs567b to the exchequer,” has unearthed the staggering financial toll inflicted by the tobacco industry on the national exchequer.

Dr Zaman said that cigarette is a non-essential and perilous commodity. He said affordability of the cigarettes was the major contributor to high consumption and ultimately diseases and fatalists in the country.

He said increasing prices of cigarettes was internationally proven strategy to curtail the consumption.

Dr. Zaman endorsed the alignment of tobacco taxation with the guidelines outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO), emphasizing the imperative to develop a long-term taxation policy grounded in global best practices and Article 6 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

In order to substantiate his argument of making the cigarette unaffordable to curb consumption, Dr. Zaman referred to a recent research report by Capital Calling that said that increase in prices of cigarette has resulted in decrease in consumption

 The Islamabad-based think tank Capital Calling reported that “one in every ninety-four smokers was forced to quit smoking after a significant raise in taxes.”

“The interviews with the smokers and data collected from these cities show that they are now saving the money by quitting smoking to fulfil other needs like food, education and health of their children, and paying the utilities.

More than 31 million4 Pakistani adults (15+) or about 19.7 percent of the total adults use some of tobacco which is one of the highest in the world,” it further said.

Malik Imran, Country Head of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, highlighted the staggering economic toll of tobacco consumption, citing an annual loss of Rs 615 billion.

He referred to a World Bank report and said that there was ample room to increase tax on tobacco products.

“The government can generate additional Rs 17 billion Rs 65 billion from the industry by increasing the tax up to 26 percent,” he said.