Anti-tobacco activists on Tuesday urged the government to increase taxes on tobacco products. Speaking at a press conference at National Press Club in Islamabad, HDF CEO Azhar Saleem said that now is the high time for government to increases taxes on tobacco products to save youth from the menace He said currently the government is facing a financial crunch due to the pandemic, adding that the total economic cost of smoking in Pakistan is estimated at Rs 143 billion, which includes direct healthcare costs and costs due to lost productivity. By levying a surcharge of Rs 10 per pack of cigarette, the government can generate up to 40 billion in revenues, he said. “Moreover, if the government levies a surcharge of Re 1 per 250ml of sugary drinks, around 8 to 10 billion more can be generated in revenues. These additional revenues can help in facilitating the relief packages that the government has announced,” he added. He said in order to adjust the inflation rates in the upcoming budget, the government needs to increase the current FED on tobacco products to at least Rs 20. By doing so, revenues for the government will increase which can be channelized into health program initiatives of the government, he said. “The other forms of tobacco products i.e. smokeless tobacco, electronic cigarettes and vaping products, need to be regulated as well. By regulating all tobacco products, more revenues can be generated for overcoming financial distress, funding of health initiatives and relief packages for the people,” he added. Secretary General at PANAH Sana Ullah Ghumman sai d the World Health Organisation has confirmed that smokers are at a greater risk due to Covid-19. “The government has to focus on reducing the health burden caused due to pandemic. The health cost incurred by government and individuals due to consumption of tobacco products is an added burden in these testing times,” he added.Sajjad Cheema, Executive Director SPARC, stated that the most effective strategy to make tobacco products inaccessible for youth is to increase taxes which will lead to increase in the prices of these products. This increase in prices will ultimately lead to tobacco products becoming inaccessible to youth. An average of 1200 children become smokers on daily basis, he added.