ISLAMABAD: Ministry of National Health Services should pursue imposition of Sin Tax (Health levy) on cigarettes and ensure implementation of World Health Organisation Framework on Tobacco Control to curb tobacco consumption in Pakistan.
Sources told Business Recorder that the budget for 2012-201 will include measures to discourage tobacco use as well as illicit trade of cigarettes. In special Cabinet meeting for coming budget for approval of Finance Bill (2020), Ministry must plead its case for implementation of Sin Tax with the help of provinces and increase the warnings on tobacco packs. The plan to spend the revenue generated from increased taxation on tobacco on health services is still in the pipeline.
"As the ministry did not pursue this case, the FBR paid no attention to realizing it," an official told this scribe.
In 2018, the ministry had asked FBR to increase tax on tobacco products and channel the generated revenue into improving health-related facilities, whereas in 2019, the ministry had proposed to levy a health-tax on tobacco products.
Furthermore, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health, Dr Zafar Mirza shared that nearly eight million people are killed by the tobacco epidemic every year. He said, "More than seven million die due to direct smoking, while 1.2 million become a victim to second-hand smoking. Low and middle-income countries are the targets of more than 80 percent of tobacco-induced preventable deaths". "Tobacco claims 160,000 lives in Pakistan annually and remains one of the serious challenges in the face of public health. Moreover, 1,200 Pakistani children, aged between 6-15 start smoking daily," he said.
The health ministry is obligated to develop strategies to protect the health of the people from tobacco under the FCTC - an international treaty to which Pakistan is a signatory.
In order to make the tobacco control efforts sustainable in Pakistan, the Health Ministry has developed a draft policy in coordination with the provinces. "Our Ministry has tabled a promising tobacco taxation reform proposal in the upcoming budget which seeks Rs 24 billion in additional tax revenue, which will then be used in health-related facilities," the SAPM said.
"We will continue to strive to raise taxes, enhance size of graphic health warnings and promote a smoke-free society by providing a counter-marketing campaign, awareness against nicotine use and empower young people to engage in the fight against tobacco," he added.