Health Levy on tobacco products; a sustainable support for Government’s Universal Health Coverage Programs

Islamabad, February 19, 2020 – Mudasser Chudhary: A media session was held by Human Development foundation during the session Mr. Azhar Saleem, CEO Human Development Foundation (HDF), stated that tobacco use has a significant impact on the economic costs of a country, including the health care costs for treating tobacco related diseases and lost productivity of workforce. He shared that higher taxes on tobacco products create a win-win situation, in terms of increased revenues for government and improved public health as tobacco consumption reduces.
Quoting the example of Philippines, he shared that Philippines introduced “Sin Tax” on cigarettes, leading to three folds increase in the budget for the department of health, which was directed at increasing the number of families from 5.2 million in 2012 to 15.3 million in 2015 whose health insurance was paid by national government. He also added that many countries have implemented health tax on tobacco products which has resulted in a sustainable source of funding for the national health care programs.
He also shared that globally, the health care expenditures and resultant productivity losses, is estimated at more than US$1.4 trillion per year, equivalent to 1.8 percent of the world’s annual GDP. Nearly 40% of the health and productivity costs related to tobacco use are already concentrated in low and middle income countries, including Pakistan.
Mr. Azhar Saleem stated that due to lack of evidence, there is a strong need for research on the actual economic and health care costs of tobacco use in Pakistan. He stressed that health levy on tobacco products is much needed to increase the health budget for the universal health coverage program of the government. Enforcement of the approved Health Levy Bill can directly contribute towards uplifting health programs and help in reducing the health care expenditures, thus reducing the burden on government. He urged the government to take concrete steps in implementing the health levy bill, with the ultimate aim of saving our youth from hazards of tobacco consumption and improving the public health.