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June 12, 2019

WHO chief felicitates Pakistan on health levy

Islamabad

June 12, 2019

Islamabad : While the tobacco industry is hell-bent on somehow obtaining reversal of the government’s bold decision of levying health tax on cigarettes and fizzy drinks, the Regional Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari has appreciated Prime Minister Imran Khan for taking the timely step.

“WHO supports the government’s decision in adopting a health levy, which is in line with WHO recommendations for controlling Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). A health levy is essential for the progress needed in the area of NCD control and prevention,” Dr. Mandhari has stated in a message. He adds, “Pakistan is expected to meet its international target in tobacco control and the levy indeed will support this direction. Monitoring the implementation and evaluating its impact is vital for deciding on next steps. We stand ready to support Pakistan in any possible way.”

Enough scientific evidence is available now to prove that tobacco use is the leading cause of NCDs globally. According to the new WHO Representative Dr. Palitha Mahipala, 57% deaths in Pakistan are caused by NCDs; these include cardiovascular diseases (29%) and cancers (8%). As per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2014, as many as 31.8% males and 5.8% females use tobacco in Pakistan. The prevalence of tobacco use among youth is 13.3% among boys and 6.6% girls. The point of concern is the narrowing of the male-to-female ration among youth, which obviously is the main target of the tobacco industry.

While presiding over a recent WHO event on World No Tobacco Day, the Advisor to the Prime Minister on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza announced the government’s intention to impose health levy on cigarettes and fizzy drinks and to use the revenue thus generated on health promotion. Pakistan is lucky to have a well-sensitized advisor in the health sector, and also a Prime Minister who, being a sportsman himself, recognizes the value of implementing bold decisions for health promotion without succumbing to the pressures of the tobacco industry.

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