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Tobacco affecting 7 million globally


May 19, 2019

Islamabad : Tobacco consumption is among the biggest source on non-communicable diseases affecting seven million globally, experts said on Friday.

Human Development Foundation (HDF) in collaboration with Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids said in a statement said that tobacco consumption is among the biggest health threats and source of non-communicable diseases that the world is facing nowadays.

On average, 7 million people die globally per year due to tobacco related diseases, including second-hand smokers, as per World Health Organization’s report.

WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), of which Pakistan is a signatory, requires countries to follow strict guidelines for tobacco control.

Although Pakistan has made laws for tobacco control, it lags behind in the proper implementation of these laws.

Among other components, imposing the required taxes on tobacco products is still an issue in Pakistan. In 2017, Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) amended the tobacco tax structure by introducing a third tier of low taxes on tobacco products due to which prices of different brands of cigarettes dropped by 50%.

This step resulted in multiple folds loss to Pakistan’s economy i.e. loss in tax revenues and increase in tobacco consumption, especially in youth, due to easy access to cigarettes.

The tobacco industry has been actively engaged in behind the curtain strategies to counter the effects of interventions taken for tobacco control. In Pakistan, FBR has been regularly influenced by tobacco industry to keep tax rates low.

With federal budget due in few weeks, the British American Tobacco donated Rs. 5 million for construction of dams in Pakistan.

HDF in collaboration with Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids has been advocating for an increase in taxes on cigarettes mainly through removal of third tier that will increase the prices of cigarettes, reduce consumption, reduce health costs and resultantly enhance revenues.

Azhar Saleem, CEO HDF, stated that the appointment of Babar bin Atta, as a dedicated focal person for tobacco control by the government is a positive step.

However, more rigorous advocacy and concrete steps are now expected of the new focal person to tackle the issue of tobacco taxation and control.

As the Prime Minister of Pakistan is dedicated to the cause of treating cancer in Pakistan, it is hoped that he will not be dissuaded by the tactics of tobacco industry.

Azhar Saleem demands that the government should remove the third tier in tobacco tax structure in the upcoming budget, improve the revenues and control the increase in consumption of tobacco, particularly among youth of Pakistan.