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Health Levy Bill: A new source for increasing government revenue’s

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ISLAMABAD: On a global scale, tobacco control efforts usually bank on World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and is also upheld in United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3.a. SDGs include goals to eradicate extreme income poverty, reduce death rates from non-communicable diseases by one third, and achieve universal health coverage.

Speaking on this matter, Senator Sitara Ayaz, Chairperson Senate Standing Committee on Climate Change, stated that tobacco use is the leading cause for non-communicable diseases. Research has shown that in most countries, smoking prevalence and rates of smoking related diseases are highest in lower income sections of the society. According to WHO, if the current smoking patterns persist around the world, smoking will be responsible for about 1 billion deaths in the 21st century and most of these deaths will be in low and middle income countries.

She also stated that the Cabinet of Pakistan forwarded the proposed health levy bill in 2019. This draft was presented by the Ministry of Health. According to the bill, a levy of Rs. 10 per pack of cigarettes and Rs. 1 per 250 ml of sugary drinks was proposed. She endorses the health levy bill and this step would result in collecting Rs. 40 billion in revenue in a year which can be used to mitigate the health burden caused by tobacco products Mr. Azhar Saleem, CEO Human Development Foundation (HDF) stated that The World Health Organization has estimated that 100 million people fall into poverty (defined by low food expenditure) annually due to out-of-pocket health expenditures, with much of these expenditures for the treatment of non-communicable diseases. This has major consequences in terms of public health. In Pakistan, tobacco use killed over 160,000 people in 2017 and cost the economy a total of around 140 billion rupees due to health care costs for tobacco-related diseases and lost productivity due to pre-mature deaths in 2012.

Tobacco control champions urged the government to take up this issue on a priority basis as it involves the youth. Higher taxes on tobacco products is a proven successful strategy to stop youth from taking up smoking and generating more revenues for the government which can be used for different health and development programs.

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