ISLAMABAD: The consumption of cigarettes in Pakistan has witnessed a decline after the government took a bold decision to increase taxes and address the dual challenge of public health and revenue generation.

A study by Capital Calling, a network of academic researchers and professionals, revealed then that one in every 94 smokers has quit smoking after the price increase.

The government's decision to increase taxes emerged as a pivotal strategy to address both public health concerns and revenue deficits, said the report.

The government had finally agreed to increase taxes following persistent lobbying efforts by numerous anti-tobacco and social activists.

In a groundbreaking move, the FBR had elevated the duty on tier-1 cigarettes from Rs130 to Rs330, resulting in a significant net increase of 154 per cent.

The decision was aimed at increasing the revenue to Rs 200 billion from Rs 148 billion in the current fiscal year.

According to the details, the survey was conducted in major cities including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Peshawar.

The voices of the surveyed smokers echoed a common sentiment - purchasing cigarettes had become financially burdensome, leading them to prioritize spending on essential needs like food and the education of their children.

The survey findings presented compelling evidence in favour of the higher taxes - the tobacco industry was causing a staggering loss of approximately 620 billion rupees annually in terms of diseases including cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and cardiovascular disease, besides 337,500 deaths each year.

Pakistan lost a staggering 567 billion rupees in potential revenue due to the influence of cigarette companies lobbying for low taxes in the past seven years.

Despite losses on various fronts, including public health and revenue, pervasive propaganda has been a hindrance to implementing higher taxes.

Multinational tobacco companies had raised concerns about the prevalence of illegal and illicit cigarettes in the Pakistani market, suggesting a share close to 40 per cent.

However, on-the-ground surveys and interviews contradicted these claims, revealing that the actual share of illicit and illegal cigarettes was not more than 18 per cent.

The evidence suggests the sales of cigarettes would further decrease in the coming months across Pakistan if the government further increase FED on the tobacco sector.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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