Anti-tobacco activists demand Rs20 increase in FED on cigarettes

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ISLAMABAD: Anti-tobacco activists on Wednesday demanded the government to increase federal excise duty (FED) on cigarettes by at least Rs20 in the upcoming annual budget, as it would enhance the government’s revenue and discourage the use of tobacco in the country.

The demand was made during a pre-budget press conference held at the National Press Club on Wednesday.

The conference was jointly organised by Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC), Human Development Foundation (HDF) and Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH).

Speaking on the occasion, SPARC Executive Director Sajjad Ahmed Cheema said, “Considering that increase in dollar price has had an effect on the prices of basic goods, the prices of tobacco products are still the same, which makes it accessible to minors.”

“Civil society organizations are anxious for the better future of Pakistan and are seriously concerned as to why heavy taxes are not been imposed on the tobacco industry,” he stated.

Cheema opined that heavy taxation on tobacco products would not only reduce tobacco consumption and its accessibility but would also keep minors away from smoking. “Besides, this will also reduce the government’s health bill and contribute to a clean and healthy environment for future generations.”

Meanwhile, Human Development Foundation (HDF) CEO Azhar Saleem noted that the country is facing a severe shortage of funds to combat coronavirus. He maintained that through multiple changes in the taxation structure, the tobacco industry has been evading taxes at the cost of the lives of people.

“The government needs to keep in mind the growing inflation rate while finalizing the taxes on tobacco products for FY21,” he said, urging the government to increase FED on tobacco products by Rs20 for each slab of the tax structure.

In his address, Pakistan National Heart Association Secretary General Sanaullah Ghuman said the government needs to adopt a futuristic approach and channelise the additional revenues into managing adverse situations such as the coronavirus pandemic.

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