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Tobacco-prompted diseases cost $1.3 bn annually

By Our Correspondent
February 17, 2021

Islamabad: A number of different diseases caused by tobacco products have turned out to be one of the major financial burdens on Pakistan’s public exchequer and personal income, with a $1.3 billion in annual health cost.

This is revealed in a research study, “Health Implications of Smoking in Pakistan,” published by the Center for Global and Strategic Studies – a public policy institute and think-tank in Islamabad.

The study disclosed that cardiovascular diseases alone were costing $0.9 billion annually to the country where financial resources are already limited for development projects. Other major diseases caused by the tobacco products include lung cancer and tuberculosis.

Pakistan is included in the 15 states of the world bearing the worst impacts of smoking related health problems, according to the study. The data shows that 22 million Pakistanis consume the tobacco related products daily, causing deaths of 160,100 individuals annually.

The study said that Pakistan is signatory to the World Health Organisation [WHO] to take effective measures to reduce the demand of cigarettes by applying tools of price and taxes. The WHO has recommended taxes up to 75 percent of the retail price of tobacco products to discourage its use.

However, the situation does not look good for Pakistan with a score of 0.88 out of 5 on cigarettes scorecard. The study pointed out that various institutional and resource constraints have played their role in the failure to control tobacco prices in the country, resulting in the lowest average price of a cigarette pack in Pakistan.

Under the target of 3.4 of Sustainable Development Goals, Pakistan has also committed to reduce non-communicable diseases by one-third till 2030. By keeping in mind these commitments, the federal cabinet approved in May 2019 a tax levy on tobacco of Rs10 on each cigarette pack of 20 sticks, but it was yet to be implemented.

The huge influence of tobacco industry over legislative bodies is a major factor behind the delay in imposition of the tax levy, the study said, adding that the low taxes were also contributing in growing use of the tobacco products in the country.