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Over 89pc cigarettes used in countryside are illegally manufactured: survey

By M. Waqar Bhatti
November 05, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Around 89 percent cigarettes being consumed in the rural areas of Pakistan are ‘illegally manufactured’, which not only lack graphic health warning on their packs but the packs also don’t have retail price printed on them, a recent survey conducted in five most populous cities of Pakistan revealed on Friday.

The survey, titled ‘Studying Tobacco Users of Pakistan (STOP)’ conducted by a local Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) The Initiative, further revealed that around 26.4 percent of smokers in the rural areas of Pakistan revealed that they bought loose cigarettes while around 29.6 percent smokers claimed that they paid less than the minimum retail price printed on the packs.

As far as urban areas of the country are concerned, the survey revealed that 17.8 percent consumed illicit cigarettes, of which 11.2 percent of the cigarette packs lacked graphic health warnings while 9.6 percent of the cigarette packs did not have retail price print on them. Around 29.5 percent of the smokers in the urban areas said they bought loose cigarettes while 13.8 percent of smokers said they paid less than the minimum retail price printed on the packs.

Dr. Amina Khan from The Initiative, which conducted the survey, said the story survey is a cross-sectional, face-to-face household survey, which was conducted in five populous districts with a population of 18,349,917 smokers and 10,825,131 smokeless tobacco users. “Our participants were people aged 15 plus who use tobacco on a regular basis, i.e. at least 25 out of the last 30 days for at least months”, she added. According to her, the objective of the survey was to assess the proportion of tobacco users who use illicit cigarettes, nicotine dependence and motivation to quit among tobacco users, and the attitude of tobacco users towards tobacco control policies and cessation aids including counselling and medication.

On the occasion, public health experts from the University of York, England, Khyber Medical University, Rawalpindi Medical University, the Aga Khan University and Indus Health Network announced the launch five separate studies under Tobacco Control Policies for Adolescents of Pakistan (TAP) project to assess the incidence of smoking among adolescents and the impact of increase in the taxes on tobacco products.

Public health expert from the University of York, England Dr Kamran Siddiqi said although use of tobacco and smoking has decreased in many countries but ironically, in several other countries of the world it has increased and added that five studies being launched by them would help to understand the problem and provide them the data to help authorities in formulation of policies. He said previous studies have revealed that around 33-50 percent of adolescents who experiment become regular smokers while most smokers, around 88 percent conceded that they started smoking in their adolescence.