Govt fails to tax cigarettes as Pakistan falls at bottom of global scorecard

Govt advised to impose specific tax on cigarettes comprising at least 70pc of retail price

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has so far failed to effectively tax cigarettes in a bid to increase revenue and discourage consumption of tobacco products, with the country scoring 0.88 points out of five on the cigarette tax scorecard, including 170 countries, according to a report released by The Tobacconomics.

The four scoring components used include the absolute price of cigarettes, changes in affordability, the tax share of the price, and tax structure.

The Tobacconomics is a collaboration of leading researchers who have been studying the economics of tobacco control policy for nearly 30 years.

According to the scorecard, Pakistan stands at the bottom with a bare 0.88 points out of 5 for its low tax rate on the cigarettes, while the top-performing countries in the assessment are Australia and New Zealand, scoring the highest at 4.63, which according to the report reflects their high, uniform specific cigarette excise taxes with regular increases that have significantly reduced the affordability of cigarettes.

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Similarly, the report has suggested the government impose a uniform specific tax on cigarettes that comprises at least 70pc of the retail price and is automatically updated to stay ahead of inflation and income growth.

The report also states that the scorecard has used the data from the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s global tobacco control reports to score countries on a five-point scale, thus providing policymakers with an actionable assessment.

When contacted, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Country Head,  Malik Imran Ahmed, told Profit that multinational tobacco companies were filling their coffers at the expense of the lives of more than 170,000 people who die due to diseases caused and aggravated by the consumption of tobacco products every year.

“The government should reform cigarette tax policies to boost revenue as well as reducing the burden on health infrastructure and affordability for the youth,” said Malik Imran Ahmed.

It is pertinent to mention here that the World Bank has suggested governments worldwide to increase the tax on tobacco products to at least 30pc for boosting revenue and cutting smokers’ numbers.

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