ISLAMABAD: Each day at least 1,200 children aged 15 and above start smoking in Pakistan, The Special Assistant to PM (SAPM) on National Health Dr Zafar Mirza said welcoming tax on tobacco.
In order to cut rising tobacco consumption and increase the revenue, the federal cabinet approved health tax on cigarette and sugary beverages. The measure was recommended by the Ministry of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination.
Mirza called the tax on cigarettes it a triumph for the government in difficult financial period.
He hailed the Prime Minister Imran Khan and said that it reflected the concerns of PM regarding public health.
He added that the health tax also signified how much the nation prioritised its health.
Mirza said that excessive use of sugary drinks was increasing risks of diseases. He added that Re1 tax would be imposed on a 250ml beverage bottle while the revenue collected from it would be allocated to the health sector for treating the poor and needy people through different programmes.
Reports have revealed that around Rs143.208 billion are spent every year on treatment of tobacco-caused diseases.
Mirza termed the decision of federal cabinet of levying health tax on tobacco products and sugary drinks as unprecedented and historic.
In a statement, he said that in order to discourage cigarette smoking, increasing revenues and saving money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs, health levy on cigarettes at the rate of Rs10 per pack of 20 cigarette sticks had been proposed by Ministry of National Health Services, along with increase in Federal Excise Duty on cigarettes.
Terming the introduction of health tax as a big win for the people he said: “the measure would have far reaching impact on their health and wellbeing and is reflective of our resolve as a nation to take a bold step forward and accord high priority to health over any other consideration.”
Mirza said that tobacco was the biggest killer causing death of around 160,189 persons in Pakistan every year. Almost 15.6 million adults currently smoke tobacco in the country whereas around 1,200 Pakistani children between age of six and 15 start smoking every day.
SAPM on health added the economic cost of smoking amounts to Rs143.208 billion. This included direct costs related to healthcare expenditures and indirect costs related to lost productivity due to early mortality and morbidity.
He said that the levy of health tax on sugary drinks aims to discourage their excessive use to control the burden and complications of Non Communicable Diseases specifically diabetes.
He added the revenue collected through levy of health tax is proposed to be earmarked for federal health budget including Prime Minister Health Program and Health Promotion.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2019.