By Hamid Khan Wazir
ISLAMABAD: Tobacco Health Levy Bill is ready to be presented in parliament and its immediate implementation can generate Rs 60 billion revenue for government that could help reduce the damage caused by tobacco industry to health and economy.
These views were agreed upon during a briefing organized by Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC) to urge the government to impose of Health Levy on tobacco products to save Pakistani children and youth from the pandemic of tobacco.
Dr. Shazia Sobia Aslam Soomro, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination, shared alarming statistics that 1,200 children beginning smoking daily and 170,000 people die due to tobacco induced diseases every year. She mentioned that the Ministry of Health is committed to support all pro-child moves such as healthy levy because they are important to ensure that the number of smokers in Pakistan, which is already at 31 million, does not go beyond our control.
Economic consequences of tobacco consumption in Pakistan were shared by Dr. Ziauddin Islam – Country Lead – Vital Strategies; Former Technical Head/Director, Tobacco Control Cell, Ministry of NHSR&C; Former Technical focal Person of Govt. of Pakistan for WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
Dr. Ziauddin Islam mentioned that the economic cost of smoking in Pakistan is Rs 615.07 billion which is equal to 1.6% of Pakistan’s GDP but the revenue generated from the tobacco industry is only 20% of the total cost. In 2019, Federal, approved a bill to impose Health Levy (Additional tax) on tobacco Products to decrease consumption and generate 60 billion Pakistani Rupees per Year.
However, influenced by the tobacco industry, many policy makers have continuously block the bill and hence tobacco products have become more affordable due to increase in per capital income.
Khalil Ahmed Dogar, Program Manager, SPARC, mentioned that children and low-income people are primary target of tobacco industry. He suggested that immediate introduction of Health Levy Bill in Parliament is required so it can become an Act and can be implemented across the country. In addition, the prices of tobacco products must be increased to match inflation and increase in per capita income. But most importantly, strict monitoring of tobacco industry is required to ensure compliance of laws.
Shariq Mahmood Khan, CEO, Chromatic Trust stated that Pakistan is one of the lowest ranked countries in the world in terms of tobacco taxation and since tobacco products are causing us financial loss, the industry should be the one to pay for the imbalance it has created. Imposing health levy and spending the increased revenue generated on public health schemes, is the most needed sustainable solution to decrease tobacco consumption and improve our public health infrastructure.