Pakistan has a substantial Rs615 billion annual deficit owing to diseases caused by smoking and overall tobacco usage, with only Rs120 billion earning in tax revenue from the product.

The government is expected to improve revenue by raising the tax on cigarettes by 30 per cent according to The Nation.

This was voiced by speakers at a major symposium held in Islamabad on May 18. The Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) held a seminar on the theme ‘Harms of Tobacco Products and the Importance of Tax Policy,’ which was presided over by Patron General (R) Ashraf Khan and hosted by General Secretary Sana Ullah Ghumman.

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As per the speakers at the event, tobacco usage is a major cause of serious heart, lung, and cancer diseases in the country. A fact sheet on the health and economic costs of cigarette usage was released by the Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC).

According to the survey, tobacco is used by 31 million persons over the age of 15. More than 260,000 people are predicted to start smoking in the country if tobacco taxes are not raised in the budget for 2022-23.

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Engineer Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, the former governor of KP and a senior PML-N leader, was the special guest at the event. Nisar Cheema, a member of the National Assembly, was also present.

Read more: Tobacco companies in Pakistan may bump cigarette prices

PANAH Patron General (R) Ashraf Khan congratulated the attendees and informed them of the organization’s goals and objectives.

Smoking was declared the primary cause of deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart, cancer, respiratory, and chronic diseases, according to participants, with an estimated 163,360 persons dying in 2017.