ISLAMABAD: The health cost of Pakistan has increased up to Rs615 billion (1.6 percent of gross domestic product-GDP) as compared to the net increase in tobacco taxation since 2017, according to the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) data.
The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) organised a pre-budget virtual press conference, on Monday, seeking higher taxes on tobacco products in Pakistan.
Malik Imran Ahmed, country head Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids said coming from 2017 there has been no net increase in tobacco taxation, on the contrary, the health cost has increased up to 1.6 percent of the GDP.
He further added, according to the PIDE report, tobacco use cost the economy Rs615 billion due to healthcare costs for tobacco-related diseases and lost productivity.
Malik Imran said worldwide, governments imposed taxes on tobacco products.
Particularly for Pakistan taxes must be increased to balance the health deficit.
Also, tobacco-product excise taxes are most important for attaining the health objective of reduced tobacco consumption.
Khalil Ahmed Dogar, programme manager, SPARC said Pakistan’s health care system was insufficient, ineffective, and expensive.
The poor conditions in the health sector may be attributed to several factors such as poverty, malnutrition, unequal access to health facilities, the inadequate allocation for health, and high population growth and infant mortality.
He added according to a past economic survey, the government spent 0.75 percent of GDP on the health sector to make its population healthier and stronger.
By imposing tobacco taxes, the government can generate sufficient funds to invest in the health sector.
Khalil Ahmed mentioned that smoking was the leading root of escapable deaths worldwide. The use of tobacco causes eight million deaths globally each year, with almost 80 percent of the smokers living in low- and middle-income countries, spending most of their income on tobacco products.
In Pakistan yearly, 166,000 people die due to tobacco consumption.
Government must initiate measures to ensure the implementation of all relevant laws to enhance tax on cigarettes to boost its revenue and reduce health costs.
Sanaullah Ghuman, secretary general, Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) said that already health was the neglected sector in Pakistan.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021