Farmers oppose tobacco control framework

Dry Tobacco

Tobacco farmers have expressed their opinion about the acceptance of Framework Convention Tobacco Control (FCTC) suggestions by World Health Organisation, stating the measure would deprive farmers of their resource of livelihood as it did not offer them an alternative.

On October 25, Kashtkar Coordination Council (KCC) and Kisan Board said that the principal point of contention was FCTC Article 6, which had negatively influenced the interests of growers by suggesting increase in taxes and reduction in tobacco growing regions.

Liaquat Yousufzai of KCC and Khalid Khan of Kisan Board explained that FCTC said cost and tax actions were an efficient and essential move of decreasing cigarette usage by people.

“Although it is being suggested to raise tax on tobacco and reduce its growing, it will be self-defeating, particularly when there are no option resources of livelihood for tobacco farmers,” he said.

Mr Liaquat said that FCTC had been created as a conspiracy hatched by developed countries.

Mr Khalid said in the framework, it had been accepted that the identifying tobacco duty policies was the sovereign right of the related parties but at the same time, it had been suggested that the member states decide and set up their duty policies as stated by Article 6.2 of FCTC.

He said: “In such conditions, where has the constitutional authority of member countries gone to set their own fiscal policies?”

Mr Liaquat and Mr Khalid said that the guidelines had been drawn up by bureaucrats with lack of knowledge of ground realities in member countries.

They said that the FCTC debate depended greatly on the experience of the European Union on tax program and its tobacco tax directive and that environment in developing countries was completely different.

In accordance with them, tobacco in Pakistan is the key resource of income for the tax authorities.

“Regardless of lacklustre economy, tax-compliant tobacco industry results in about 37% of entire federal excise duty gathered in Pakistan.

The suggested actions will negatively strike the government income,” Mr Liaquat said.

He said that poverty was more harmful as it urged people to turn violent. He said Kisan Board appealed to the government that until provision of alternative source of livelihood to tobacco farmers was ensured, FCTC should not be applied.

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