Tobacco main cause of non-communicable diseases like cancer in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: Tobacco causes an extra burden of Rs192 billion to the national exchequer in the form of various non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cancer, among users and loss of productivity, states a recent report of Pakistan Health Research.
The report further states that health is a fundamental right of people and provision of basic health facilities is the government responsibility.
Global research over decades has shown that tobacco consumption, in any form, is hazardous for the health of individuals. It leads to various non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among its users, including cancer of different organs of the body.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also stresses the need to reduce tobacco consumption through different strategies; of which higher taxes on tobacco products is proven to be the most effective, the report further states.
Country Representative Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Malik Imran while talking to The Reporters said that the federal cabinet had approved the proposed Health Levy Bill in 2019, adding that it was also decided that the proposed bill to be included in Finance bill 2019-20.
In this bill, Health levy on cigarettes at the rate of Rs10 per pack of 20 cigarettes and Rs1on 250 ml of sugary drinks was proposed, Malik Imran.
The Country Representative further said that due to this delay, Pakistan has lost more than Rs50 billion and is continuously losing large revenues which could have been utilized for various schemes of public welfare by the government, including Ehsaas Program and Universal Health coverage.
Team Lead Human Development Foundation Anis Bilal said that the health levy was only a measure to mitigate the health burden caused by non-essential products such as sugary drinks and tobacco products.
Raising the prices makes these products inaccessible for children and helps generate revenue as well, said Anis Bilal. Health levy on sugary drinks and cigarettes would have generated Rs 55 billion in revenue which could be used for healthcare infrastructure, he maintained.
He further said the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has failed to implement the Health Levy bill which has cost the national exchequer a hefty amount.
This new stream of revenues will help the government for sustaining its health program initiatives.
He stated that the tobacco control activists anticipate that the government will take instant notice of the delay in implementation of the health levy bill and ensure necessary steps to finally implement the bill.