Government urged to impose health levy on tobacco products
Islamabad : Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC) held a press conference, at National Press Club here on Wednesday, to recall government about the health levy bill which was passed by the cabinet in 2019 and is yet not implemented.
Health activists have been pleading FBR and Health Ministry over the imposition of the health levy bill which was passed last year and still not implemented, who is responsible for the delay? Is public health not a priority matter for our government?
Khalil Ahmed, programme manager, SPARC said, Pakistan’s economy is unfortunately unstable, the idea of a health levy was to increase the prices of sugary drinks and tobacco products so that they are out of reach of children and it would have generated revenue. Health levy on sugary drinks and cigarettes would have generated Rs55 billion in revenue which could be used for healthcare infrastructure. As a result of the lack of implementation of the bill, the country lost Rs55 billion last year.
He further added that the COVID-19 pandemic made everyone realise that our existing resources are insufficient to hostage any health emergency. Revenue generated from the health levy could have been utilised for pandemic control and guarantee better health for our people.
Ch. Sana Ullah Ghuman, secretary general, Pakistan National Heart Association said that the Federal Cabinet approved the health levy bill last year in June, despite the approval of the Prime Minister and cabinet the said bill is yet not implemented. Nevertheless, this bill has been going back and forth between FBR, Healthy Ministry, and Finance Ministry.
He further said that the FBR has stated in writing that it doesn’t have any issues with the implementation of a health levy. Yet not taking it utterly, the postponement in implementation of the bill is intolerable, it shows that public health is not a priority matter for our government.
Col (r) Azhar Saleem, CEO, Human Development Foundation (HDF) said that the under-aged are the most affected group from tobacco consumption. Therefore, we anticipate that the government will take instant notice of the delay in implementation of the health levy without being ill-advised by the FBR and take necessary steps to safeguard the health of millions of children in Pakistan.