Higher tobacco taxes to help fight the corona virus
Islamabad: The Society for the Protection of Children’s Rights (SPARC) on Friday held an online session with journalists on tobacco taxes and potential sources of income to cover the costs of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sajjad Ahmed Cheema, SPARC’s executive director, said the federal cabinet had ordered the imposition of an Rs10 surcharge for tobacco products and Rs1 for sweet drinks, but his order had not been followed by the authorities so Prime Minister Imran Khan had to ensure that action was needed.
He said the full implementation of the taxes would result in state revenues of Rs50 billion, which could be used to buy PPE for health workers and test kits needed for a pandemic.
Mr Malik Imran Ahmed from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Children, Pakistan, said billions of revenues could be immediately collected by the government by revising a tax on only two cigarette products and carbonated drinks and the revenue generated could be directly invested in public health to fight the corona pandemic in the country. .
He added cigarettes and carbonated drinks had poor nutritional value and sales trends showed smoking habits among young people and high consumption of soft drinks.
“Not only does a higher price prevent teenagers from starting smoking, but it encourages current smokers to quit, who are currently at higher risk of corona virus due to decreased immunity,” he said.
Malik further said that implementing a tax pricing policy that would ultimately add to national health goals, which had been provided in Article 6 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), “Price and tax measures to reduce tobacco demand.”
He said the efficient taxation on this matter could reduce public access because their consumption endangered health and increased the country’s health burden.
Sanaullah Ghuman, Secretary General, Pakistan’s National Heart Association, said last year the government announced an additional fee of Rs10 per pack of cigarettes.
However, additional costs approved by the cabinet are not presented in the 2019-20 Finance Bill and, therefore, cannot be applied. If additional costs were imposed on cigarettes, the government would generate around Rs40 billion per year in addition to the existing tax revenue.
He added that instead of relying on others, the government needed to adopt a futuristic approach and channel additional income into situations where financial setbacks were faced such as the current coronavirus pandemic.
“This additional income will continue to reduce the financial crisis facing the country.”
According to health experts and advocates, the lack of funds facing Pakistan to combat the corona virus can be overcome by charging additional fees for tobacco products.