ISLAMABAD: Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) has proposed Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to raise Federal Excise Duty (FED) on cigarettes by 26 percent in budget (2024-25).

The SPARC held a briefing session with journalists on Wednesday at local hotel in which it was shared that SPARC along with other organisations wrote a letter to Finance Ministry/FBR and submitted budget proposal (2024-25) for increased taxation on cigarettes. It was proposed that tobacco taxation needs to be increased by at least 26 percent in upcoming federal budget.

Pakistan faces a significant challenge with widespread tobacco consumption, with over 31.9 million adults aged 15 years and above identified as current tobacco users, constituting nearly 19.7 percent of the adult population.

Smoking-related illnesses claim over 160,000 lives annually, representing a substantial 1.6 percent of the nation’s GDP each year. However, in the fiscal year 2022-23, cigarette taxes covered only 16 percent of these expenses, marking a decline from 19.5 percent in 2019.

Dr Khalil Ahmad, programme manager SPARC stated that, the affordability of cigarettes and the devastating toll of smoking on public health are indeed pressing concerns that demand urgent action. When cigarettes are inexpensive, it can encourage more people, especially the youth and those with limited financial means, to start smoking or to continue the habit despite the known health risks.

The loss of innocent lives due to smoking-related illnesses is tragic and preventable. It underscores the importance of implementing effective tobacco control measures, including increased taxation on cigarettes, to make them less affordable and discourage consumption.

Furthermore, comprehensive tobacco control strategies should encompass not only taxation but also measures such as public education campaigns, smoke-free policies and support for smoking cessation programmes.

Malik Imran Ahmad, Country Head Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) said that increasing tobacco taxes, as recommended by global health organisations like World Health Organisation and the World Bank, can indeed be an effective measure to reduce consumption and generate revenue for healthcare.

A 26.6 percent FED increase, as proposed for the fiscal year 2024-25, appears to be a significant step forward. Not only could it help recoup a substantial portion of healthcare costs, but it also has the potential to discourage hundreds of thousands of individuals from smoking.

Organizations such as Human Development Foundation, Aurat Foundation and Chromatic Trust alongside SPARC have raised their concerns on this crucial public health issue.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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