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Increase tobacco taxes to reduce consumption: HDF

ISLAMABAD: A media session was recently held by the anti-tobacco advocates where they alleged that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has failed to impose the health levy on cigarettes. The event was organized by Human Development Foundation (HDF). The speakers called upon the government to ensure implementation of the levy without further delay.

While speaking to the Press, the officials of HDF said that the announcement of the budget 2019-20, the cabinet had approved the long-awaited health levy bill on cigarette packs and instructed the FBR to immediately implement it. However, no action was taken, according to the HDF statement.

The officials of HDF stated that an effective tobacco control measure was provided in Article 6 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which addressed the “Price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco”. Through such measure, governments were required to implement tax and price policies which would ultimately add to the national health objectives, HDF told.

HDF Chief Azhar Saleem said, “The spirit of health levy is to increase revenue that will be placed at the disposal of the health ministry to lessen the burden of expenditure that is incurred on diseases caused by use of tobacco in all its forms.”

Azhar Saleem said these revenues would help ensure the sustainability of health programmes as had been evident from the experience of countries like the Philippines and Thailand.

According to Saleem, the tobacco industry claimed that increasing taxes on tobacco products led to an increase in illicit trade of tobacco. But as has been stated time and again, the issue of illicit trade of tobacco was administrative in nature and not related to tax increase.

Azhar further said that an effective and transparent track and trace system for tobacco industry would help in solving the issue of illicit trade, ensuring the sale of legal cigarettes.

Mr Saleem urged the government to ensure that the health levy on cigarettes was implemented without any further delay. He said the implementation of the levy would endorse the commitments of the government to the wellbeing of its citizens, especially youth, by reducing the tobacco consumption.

-DN Report

January 21, 2020

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