KARACHI: The Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC) hosted a webinar on ‘Cigarette Taxation in Pakistan.’ The purpose of this webinar was to discuss the implications of the cigarette tax policy of Pakistan for cigarette consumption, government revenues and health outcomes, particularly in the context of proposed federal budget 2021-22.

Speaking to the webinar, Dr Aisha Ghaus Pasha, National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs member said the high prevalence of tobacco use in Pakistan, particularly among young adults, is a matter of grave concern. Tobacco control policies of the government have not been able to achieve the objective of reducing tobacco consumption. She added that Federal Excise Duty (FED) on cigarettes should be increased to discourage tobacco use. However, a tax increase should be coupled with effective administrative measures to deal with tax avoidance issues, she added.

Dr Jeffrey Drope, Research Professor, University of Illinois Chicago’s Institute for Health Research and Policy shared the results of the Tobacconomics Cigarette Tax Scorecard, which evaluates countries’ cigarette tax systems based on a five-point rating. Dr Drope informed that in 2018 Pakistan scored 0.88 points out of 5 on the cigarette tax scorecard of 170 countries, the lowest in the region.

Muhammad Sabir, Principal Economist, SPDC, stated that the FED rates on cigarettes have not changed for the last two years, and no increase has been proposed in the current Finance Bill 2021 either. This would have profound negative implications regarding tax revenue and health outcomes.