Activists demand more taxes on cigarettes

Prices of tobacco products are still same despite rupee depreciation

​ Our Correspondent June 04, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Anti-tobacco activists have requested the government to raise the federal excise duty (FED) on cigarettes by at least Rs20 per pack in the upcoming budget for fiscal year 2020-21 in order to enhance revenue collection and discourage the use of tobacco.

The demand was made jointly by The Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC), Human Development Foundation and Pakistan National Heart Association at a press conference on Wednesday.

“Keeping in mind the fact that rupee depreciation against the dollar has affected prices of all necessary goods, but prices of tobacco products are still the same, which makes them easily accessible for minors,” said SPARC Executive Director Sajjad Ahmed Cheema.

He was of the view that heavy taxes on tobacco products would not only reduce tobacco consumption and impact access but would also discourage minors from purchasing tobacco-based products. “We urge the government to impose higher taxes on tobacco products to save our children.”

Speaking on the occasion, Human Development Foundation CEO Azhar Saleem pointed out that the country was facing an acute shortage of funds to combat the coronavirus.

Through changes in the tax structure, the tobacco industry had been evading taxes at the cost of lives of the general public, he stressed. He demanded that the government keep the rising inflation in mind while finalising taxes on tobacco products for fiscal year 2020-21. He requested the authorities to increase the federal excise duty on each slab of tobacco products by Rs20 in the budget.

Pakistan National Heart Association Secretary General Sanaullah Ghuman emphasised that the government needed to adopt a futuristic approach and divert additional revenue towards situations that caused financial setbacks such as the coronavirus pandemic.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2020.

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