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May 7, 2019

‘Tobacco killing 160,000 people annually in country’

National

May 7, 2019

Islamabad: Tobacco is the single largest preventable cause of death in world and killing above 160,000 people annually in the country, said parliamentary secretary for National Health Services (NHS) on Monday.

Dr. Nausheen Hamid was speaking on the occasion of launch of a Report on “The Burden of Illicit Trade in Cigarettes in Islamabad”, by FFO, a think tank working on NCDs and tobacco control issues.

Talking about the burden of tobacco use in the country she said that tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of death in the world. Tobacco kills around 166,000 people every year in Pakistan. In Pakistan, 23.9 million adult populations use tobacco in any form. She said that the annual economic cost of smoking in Pakistan is as high as Rs143.208 billion.

She expressed satisfaction on the findings of the study which revealed that there are only 15.95 per cent of the cigarettes per day consumed in Islamabad, classified as illicit. She said that based on the overblown figures of illicit trade in cigarettes, the policy of reducing cigarette prices was introduced by FBR in the last government regime. Globally, tobacco industry lobbies for favorable tax structure arguing that an increase in taxes will harm the economy and increase illicit trade.

However, evidence from this report shows that the burden of illicit trade in cigarettes in Islamabad is almost half than quoted by tobacco industry. The report also counters the tobacco industry arguments about shifting of smokers towards cheaper brands if prices increased, by revealing that 61 per cent of the smokers would quit of reduce smoking if price is increased. Only 8 per cent of the smokers would opt for cheaper cigarettes if price is increased.

Earlier, Dr. Ziauddin Islam briefed about the rational and intended benefits of the study in strategizing tobacco taxation policy reforms in Pakistan. Muhammad Faisal, Project Manager, FFO gave a detailed presentation on the study. He informed the participants about the finding of the study; i.e. 15.95 per cent of the cigarettes per day consumed in Islamabad, classified as illicit. These cigarette brands failed to comply with the six-factor criteria i.e. pictorial health warnings, textual health warning, low price, age warning, manufacturer details and printing of retail price. Out of 15.95 per cent, only 10.74 per cent of cigarettes were illicit as smuggled and 5.2 per cent cigarettes were illicit as low priced or duty not paid (DNP). These DNP cigarettes met all the criteria of legitimate brands but selling on low price (Rs 25-40), which labeled these as illicit cigarettes.

He further informed that smoking is inversely related to academic qualification and price, the respondents appear to be less educated (65.7 per cent were matriculate or below), 25.5 per cent were willing to quit smoking if the price of cigarettes be doubled. While 36.2 per cent were of the opinion to reduce smoking if price of cigarettes be doubled.

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