A Pivotal Push for Public Health: Aurat Foundation’s Advocacy for Tobacco Taxation

In the face of mounting GST concerns, the Aurat Foundation has emerged as a vocal advocate for a significant tobacco tax hike, aiming to address the dual challenges of Pakistan’s budget deficit and public health crisis.

The Taxation Proposition: The Aurat Foundation’s stance is clear: a 26.6% increase in the Federal Excise Duty (FED) on cigarettes is imperative to alleviate the economic strain caused by tobacco-related diseases. This bold move could lead to a 12.1% surge in tax revenue and a 19.8% recovery of health costs, potentially resulting in 517,000 fewer smokers.

The Economic Rationale: With Pakistan’s health system burdened by the costs of tobacco consumption, the proposed tax hike is seen as a strategic step to narrow the gap between health burdens and tax revenues. The Foundation’s Executive Director, Naeem Ahmed Mirza, emphasized the need for this increase during an iftar dinner with newly elected MNAs, highlighting the potential for freeing up resources for poverty reduction efforts.

The Human Cost of Tobacco

A National Health Emergency: Tobacco use in Pakistan leads to over 337,500 deaths annually, representing a staggering 1.4% of the nation’s GDP. The Aurat Foundation’s campaign is not just about numbers; it’s a fight for the lives of millions of adults and children affected by tobacco’s lethal legacy.

Support from the Corridors of Power: The advocacy has garnered support from various women parliamentarians across political parties, with MNAs like Zeb Jaffar and Sahar Kamran pledging their commitment to the anti-tobacco campaign and child-friendly legislation.

The Road Ahead

Policy Recommendations: Beyond the immediate tax hike, the Aurat Foundation urges the government to integrate cost recovery into tobacco tax policies through automatic adjustments and implement a uniform FED rate across all cigarette brands.

A United Front for Change: The collective voice of the Aurat Foundation, health activists, and supportive parliamentarians presents a united front in the battle against tobacco. Their concerted efforts aim to shape a healthier future for Pakistan’s populace.

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