Tariq Ullah Wardak
ISLAMABAD: Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC), Human Development Foundation (HDF) and Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) jointly held an online “Post-Budget briefing session on tobacco taxation” on Tuesday.
Anti-tobacco activists have thanked to Mr. Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan for retaining the taxation on tobacco products in federal annual budget 2020-21 despite the pressure from big tobacco industry. The activists have also put forward their recommendations for future to save millions of lives from harms of tobacco.
Malik Imran Ahmed, Country head Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) said, that every year tobacco industry tries to manipulate policymakers in order to fill its coffers at expense of lives of more than 170,000 people who die due to diseases caused and aggravated by usage of tobacco products.
Malik thanked the government to not buy in to the deceptive tactics of big tobacco industry and retain the taxation cap on tobacco products.
Sajjad Ahmed Cheema, Executive Director, SPARC stated that government should have considered the growing inflation rate while finalizing the taxes on tobacco products for fiscal year 2021-22.
He further mentioned that due to increase in inflation and hike in dollar prices, the prices of basic goods for living have increased whereas, the prices of tobacco products are still the same. They should have increased as well. Heavy taxation on tobacco products will not only reduce the tobacco consumption and its accessibility but will also keep the minors off from tobacco.
Mr. Azhar Saleem, CEO, Human Development Foundation (HDF) stated that the country is facing a severe shortage of funds to combat the health and poverty crisis. The increase in taxation and Federal Excise Duty (FED) leads to more funds available for health and contributes to clean and healthy environment for future generations.
Ch. Sana Ullah Ghuman, Secretary General, Pakistan National Heart Association said, a lot needs to be done to safeguard Pakistani children from harms of tobacco. The government needs to remain steadfast and adopt a futuristic approach to overcome any challenges thrown by big tobacco industry.
According to the activists, hike in prices is a much-needed course of action required to save lives, along with strict implementation of laws regarding graphic health warnings, promotion and advertising bans, and smoke-free places.