In a bid to deter people from products which are harmful – to varying degrees – to health, Pakistan is considering imposition of a ‘sin tax’ on cigarettes and products high on sugar content like soft drinks, candies and sugar itself.
The country’s minister for National Health Services, Aamer Mahmood Kiani, said at a recent conference that the Imran Khan government is looking to increase the health budget and may target products which are proven to have a detrimental impact on health. “Various routes will be used to increase the health budget,” he was quoted as saying by Dawn. “One of them is imposing a sin tax on tobacco products and sugary beverages. That sum will be diverted to the health budget.”
The report also quoted an official from the NHS ministry as saying that various international models are being studied to see the viability. “A sin tax is an internationally recognised term and is specifically levied on certain goods deemed harmful to society, for example tobacco, candies, soft drinks, fast foods, coffee and sugar,” said Dr Asad Hafeez. “The United States charges about $1.5 (approximately Rs200) per pack of cigarettes, while the UK charges 40 pence (around Rs100) per litre of sugary beverages as sin tax. Thailand, as well as a number of other countries, has similar taxes that are earmarked for healthcare services.”
It is reported that the country currently spends 0.6% of its GDP on health and is looking to increase this figure. Neighbouring India spends 1% of its GDP on health while countries like Sweden (9.2%), France (8.7%), Denmark (8.7%) and Belgium (8.6%) top the global rankings. The United States (8.5%) and the UK (7.9%) also figure prominently.