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A Union expert has joined Pakistan’s technical working group on tobacco taxation, following the launch of a report co-published by The Union which demonstrated that tobacco tax reform could lead to 500,000 quitting cigarettes, and increase tax revenues by 27.2 billion rupees.

The Union’s technical advisor in Islamabad, Fouad Aslam, joins representatives from Pakistan’s Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination [NHSRC] and Federal Board of Revenue [FBR], the World Bank and World Health Organization [WHO]  to form the working group.

‘This group has been tasked with devising a strategy to increase taxes on tobacco products in line with WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. We are very pleased to be able to support this proactive move toward investing in the health of the nation,’ said Dr Ehsan Latif, The Union’s Director of Tobacco Control.

The NHSRC announced a group of experts would convene to review the country’s existing tobacco tax structure after The Economics of Tobacco and Tobacco Taxation in Pakistan was published by The Union and WHO, for the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use in May last year. The report showed that the introduction of a uniform specific tax accounting for 70% of Pakistan's average cigarette price could lead to half a million smokers quitting, and reduce premature deaths among adult smokers by over 180,000. At the same time more than 27 billion rupees (US $277 million) would be generated in new cigarette tax revenues.

The working group will also work towards earmarking tobacco tax revenues for tobacco control measures, as recommended in the report. Co-authored by members of Pakistan’s FBR and academics from Pakistan, India, the USA and Canada, the study also highlighted that annual, or more frequent adjustments must be made to tobacco tax rates, to avoid being eroded by inflation and to maximize the public health and revenue impact.

Very low excise taxes have resulted in cigarettes in Pakistan becoming among the most affordable in the world in recent years. It currently has one of the largest populations of tobacco users, with over 22 million adults smoking tobacco.

The NHSRC aims to have the tobacco tax reforms in place within the Federal Budget 2015-2016 which will be finalised in March this year.

 

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