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Wednesday October 27, 2021

160,100 annual deaths due to tobacco: Tobacco industry’s influence in parliaments slows levying tax: study

May 29, 2021

PESHAWAR: The huge influence of the tobacco industry over legislative bodies is a major factor behind the delay in imposition of the tax levy and the low taxes are contributing to the growing use of the tobacco products in the country.

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

The study recommended the government to introduce comprehensive reforms in its taxation and planning policies to curtail the growing use of tobacco, especially among youths. In this regard, the situation needs to be monitored closely to ensure that influence of the tobacco industry does not have any effect on the policies being implemented by legislative institutes, the study added.

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, it said.

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 tobacco products include lung cancer and tuberculosis.

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 reducing 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.

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 a signatory to the World Health Organization [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 the cigarettes scorecard.