- Around 1,200 children start smoking daily in Pakistan due availability of cheap cigarettes
- Tobacco responsible for 166,000 deaths in the Country annually
By Hamid Khan Wazir
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The long-pending implementation of the Health Levy Bill became a shuttlecock among the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR), the Health Ministry, and the Finance Ministry, causing a whopping Rs 50 billion loss to the national kitty annually.
The Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC) held a Briefing Session in Islamabad on Thursday on demanding the implementation of the Health Levy Bill that was approved by the Federal Cabinet in 2019 but was yet to be implemented.
The bill would raise prices on cigarettes and sugary drinks which would help generate Rs 50 billion annually in revenue.
The SPARC particularly demanded the FBR to escalate the process to implement the bill.
The Executive Director SPARC Sajjad Ahmed Cheema said that raising prices on tobacco is proven to be the single most effective policy to reduce tobacco consumption and its related health diseases. About 1,200 children start smoking every day in Pakistan which is an alarming figure and requires immediate action.
Health levy bill can raise the prices and also help generate revenue that can be used for healthcare schemes. However, this bill has been going back and forth between the FBR, the Health Ministry, and the Finance Ministry.
However, it still stays pending to date due to the delay, the state treasury suffered a loss of Rs 50 billion annually.
The Chairperson National Commission on the Rights of the Child (NCRC) Afshan Tehseen said that the pandemic situation makes it all the more necessary to implement the bill to generate revenue and support the healthcare system.
Also, cheap cigarettes give easy access to the youth of these highly dangerous products. We cannot negate the importance of the health levy, and the delay in this matter is unacceptable because it shows that health is not a priority matter for our government.
The Secretary-General of the Pakistan National Heart Association Chaudhry Sana Ullah Ghuman said that tobacco is responsible for 166,000 deaths in Pakistan yearly, is considered to be a “pediatric disease”. Factors contributing to youth smoking include cultural traditions, tobaccos’ easy accessibility, moderate pricing, and tobacco advertisements and promotional activities.
Chaudhry Sana Ullah further added that the under-aged are the most affected group by tobacco consumption.