Saturday June 15, 2024

Significant drop in smoking rates in Pakistan

May 21, 2024
This representational image shows a man smoking. — AFP/File
This representational image shows a man smoking. — AFP/File

Islamabad: A recent survey by Islamabad’s Centre for Research and Dialogue (CRD) show a significant 18 per cent drop in smoking rates in Pakistan, linked to rising cigarette prices. This success highlights the effectiveness of high tobacco taxes, a strategy backed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The survey found a marked decrease in cigarette consumption, with 15% of respondents reporting they cut back due to higher prices. This translates to an estimated 11 billion fewer cigarettes smoked annually. It’s important to note that Pakistan’s total consumption, ranging from 72 to 80 billion sticks a year, includes taxed, smuggled and untaxed products. Survey mentioned while these results are promising, Pakistan still has some of the world’s cheapest cigarettes. This gap highlights the need for further tax increases to effectively curb smoking.

Survey also said government’s decision to raise FED rates by 146% for cheaper brands and 154% for premium brands in 2023 has been a key factor in the decline; however these increases, cigarettes in Pakistan remain much cheaper than in countries of south Asia. Director of CRD, Maryam Gul Tahir, urged the Pakistani government to build on these gains and continue raising cigarette prices to maintain the decline in smoking. “Pakistan has a long way to go in tobacco taxation,” she emphasises. “Public health must be prioritised over industry interests,” she said. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also advocate for stronger taxation, recognizing the link between higher prices and lower consumption.