The pending Tobacco Health Levy Bill’s immediate implementation can generate Rs60 billion in revenue for the government, besides reducing smoking's harm to people’s health and the economy.
These views were agreed upon during a briefing organised by the Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC) to urge the government to impose a health levy (additional tax) on tobacco products to save Pakistani children and youth from the smoking pandemic.
Dr Shazia Sobia Aslam Soomro, Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination, highlighted startling figures that 1,200 children start smoking every day and 170,000 individuals die due to tobacco related diseases every year.
She stated that the health ministry is committed to supporting all pro-child initiatives such as the health levy because they are crucial to ensuring that the number of smokers in Pakistan, which is currently 31 million, does not spiral out of control.
Vital Strategies Country Lead Dr Ziauddin of Islam Economic said that the economic cost of smoking in Pakistan is Rs615.07 billion, or 1.6% of Pakistan's gross domestic product, and only 20% of that cost is covered by the tobacco industry.
The tobacco products prices must be increased to match inflation and increase in per capita income, he suggested and stressed that strict monitoring of the tobacco industry must be done to ensure legal compliance.
Chromatic Trust Chief Executive Officer Shariq Mahmood Khan stated that Pakistan has one of the lowest tobacco tax rates in the world. Since tobacco products are causing financial loss to people, the tobacco industry should pay for the imbalance it has created, he added.
He said imposing health levy and spending the increased revenue on public health schemes is the most needed long-term solution to reduce tobacco consumption and improve the public health infrastructure.
Credit : Independent News Pakistan-WealthPk