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Saturday May 25, 2024

Think tank raises alarm against pushing govt to deviate from WHO guidelines

By INP
April 13, 2024
This photograph shows a sign of the WHO at its headquarters in Geneva. — AFP/File
This photograph shows a sign of the WHO at its headquarters in Geneva. — AFP/File

Islamabad: A Islamabad-based think tank, Capital Calling, has raised alarm against the surge in the campaign by multinational cigarette companies to resist the guidelines set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international bodies regarding budgetary and other checks on their business.

The think tank stated that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has duly recommended to the government that there should be a uniform tax on all cigarettes being manufactured in Pakistan, regardless of their local or foreign brands.

The ace researcher on anti-smoking, Dr Hassan Shehzad, from IIUI, said that in reality, cigarette prices are lower in Pakistan compared to other regional countries. He said there is a direct link between reduction in smoking and increase in cigarette prices.

He said it is unfortunate that representatives of cigarette companies dominate public debate, expressing the need for the government to contain this practice as per the WHO protocols that require the governments to be vigilant about promotion of cigarette business.

Dr Shehzad, the only researcher IMF has referred to in its recommendations for tax reforms in the country, also urged the anti-smoking groups to carry out genuine research as the data they have been presenting to the policymakers is old, which needs to be re-explored. Similarly, awareness about tobacco is almost non-existent on digital media which is an anachronism in this modern age.

He said that due to these weaknesses that multinational companies conveniently capitalize on to push forward their agenda. He said it has been observed that these companies are competing with one another to increase smoking in the society but they come on the same page to influence the government into facilitating their business, which by and large is a health hazard.