Govt implementing tax, price policies on tobacco products to reduce consumption: Saira

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ISLAMABAD, May 31 (APP): Federal Minister for National Health  Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar on Tuesday said the government was implementing tax and price policies on tobacco products as a way to reduce tobacco consumption.

Addressing a seminar held in connection with the World No Tobacco Day here, the minister said Tobacco Control Cell had formed a technical working group on tobacco taxation. Experts from Federal Board of Revenue, The Union, World Health Organization, World Bank and Tobacco Control Cell are members of its working group, she added.

She said for the Federal Budget 2016-17, the ministry had also sent recommendations to Ministry of Finance to increase taxes on tobacco products and earmark tobacco tax revenue for the Prime Minister’s Health Programme for Treatment of NCDS. The target was to increase tobacco
taxation to the minimum level of 70% as recommended by World Health Organization.

She said the ministry had banned tobacco and tobacco products advertisements in print, electronic and outdoor media. This legislation was challenged in Sindh High Court by a renowned tobacco company, but it had to withdraw the petition due to the arguments of the ministry.

The minister said the Tobacco Control Cell had used multifarious strategies to warn masses about dangers of tobacco use and capacity building of provincial and district law enforcers. Recently, the Cell finished first of its kind national anti-tobacco mass media campaign to focus on the health harms of tobacco.

The Cell, she said, would continue the ongoing awareness and capacity building activities as a demand reduction measure for tobacco control. It was being coordinated with provincial governments to create provincial setup on tobacco control. Resultantly, provincial tobacco control cells
had been created in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan while same had been promised by Punjab and Sindh.

Speaking to the pictorial health warning issue, she said the
Tobacco Control Cell notified new pictorial health warning in 2015 and enhanced the size to 85% of cigarette pack on both sides. Later on, an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) was formed to review the impact of pictorial health warning on revenue and smuggling and to consult with stakeholders regarding implementation issues.

The committee recommended to adopt phased approach like PHW to be increased by 10% from 1st June, 2016 and further be increased by 10% on 1st June, 2017 or 5% on 1st June, 2017 and another 5% on 1st June, 2018.

In the third year of the decision, a survey to assess the impact of pictorial health warning on revenue and smuggling will be conducted.

After reviewing the result of the survey, further decision would be made.

Meanwhile, two petitions were filed in Islamabad High Court against the decision of the Committee. This ministry is respondent in the case.

The recommendations could not be implemented due to sub-judice matter.

Shahzad Alam from WHO highlighted the importance of theme of this year’s day. Dr Ziauddin from Tobacco Control Cell highlighted the measures taken by the ministry to control the epidemic of tobacco use in Pakistan.

Dr. Muhammad Arshad, Assistant Professor, Holy Family hospital enlightened the participants about hazardous effects of tobacco use on nose, ear and throat.