ISLAMABAD: Former Federal Minister for National Health Services, Dr Nadeem Jan, Saturday, called for a significant increase of 50 percent in taxes (excise duty and sales tax) on cigarettes in the budget (2024-25).

Dr Jan stressed the importance of higher taxes as a measure to make cigarettes less accessible and to combat tobacco-related health issues effectively.

During an anti-tobacco awareness session hosted by the Centre for Research and Dialogue and IBC at federal capital here on Saturday, he critically addressed the cigarette industry’s claims that higher taxes would lead to a surge in illicit trade, labelling these assertions as misleading tactics aimed at persuading the government to lower taxes on tobacco products.

Jan pointed out the adverse impact of such misinformation on state revenues and public health. Despite industry pressures, he highlighted the efforts of the health ministry to implement policies to reduce smoking rates in Pakistan.

Jan advocated for the adoption of a single-tier taxation system to replace the current multi-tier system, which was influenced by the cigarette industry under the pretext of combating illicit trade.

Reiterating Pakistan’s commitment to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), he called for a unified pricing system to simplify regulation and discourage tobacco use.

Malik Imran, Country Head of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also spoke at the session, emphasiSing the economic burden of tobacco consumption on the country, estimated at an annual loss of Rs615 billion. Imran criticized the tobacco industry’s undue influence on government policy and its unfounded warnings against tax increases, which contradict the industry’s record-high revenues and the government’s doubled revenue from the previous financial year.

Both speakers underscored the necessity of stringent regulation and public awareness to counter the tobacco industry’s misleading claims and propaganda, including on social media platforms, advocating for a significant tax increase on tobacco products as supported by the World Bank’s findings.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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Bilal Mar 19, 2024 04:44am
Could this ex-minister be any more dishonest with the country ? Is it not a fact that due to the hike in FED over cigarettes since last Feb the share of market of illicit sector has increased to 60%?
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