While tobacco kills over 170,000 people in the country each year, the government has not imposed any taxes on the product in the past four years.
The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) has held a dialogue session on Tuesday to talk about the need for smart decision-making to stimulate Pakistan’s economy by increasing taxes on tobacco products.
The session titled “Tobacco Taxation: Big source for huge Revenue” was organized at a time when Pakistan has been experiencing an unprecedented rise in oil, gas, and electricity prices and the government is striving to check the subsequent increase in commodity prices.
Malik Imran, the Country Head of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his cabinet members have said on a number of occasions that the government will not hesitate to make unpopular decisions to bolster the country’s economy.
In an attempt to raise revenue, the government has tried to increase fuel prices and diminish imports, but one of the major sources of revenue remains untapped.
Malik Imran mentioned that tobacco taxation has been stagnant in Pakistan for the last four years.
He said that smoking carries an annual fiscal burden of 615 billion or 1.6% of Pakistan’s GDP.
However, the income generated by the tobacco industry amounts to 120 billion.
Khalil Ahmed Dogar, the Program Manager, SPARC, said there is no justification for not raising taxes on tobacco products that are non-essential and dangerous and cause 170,000 deaths annually.
On average, smokers in Pakistan spend 10 percent of their average monthly earnings on cigarettes.
With affordable prices, nearly 1,200 children start smoking every day in the country.
He asked for massive taxes on tobacco products to discourage their consumption.
Shariq Mahmood Khan, the CEO, of Chromatic Trust, said, according to the government all of the decisions of raising prices have been taken in the light of Pakistan’s international commitments.
Shariq Mahmood said Pakistan is a signatory of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which has on several occasions called on the country to hike the taxes on tobacco products in line with inflation.
“The government must implement this recommendation, which will not only generate much-needed income but also reduce smoking’’, he said.