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SKMT CEO proposes cancer tax on tobacco products

By Our Correspondent
June 01, 2021

LAHORE:Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust (SKMT) acting CEO Dr Aasim Yusuf has proposed to impose cancer tax on tobacco consumption which might be used to spend on cancer-related issues.

While speaking at a digital awareness session to mark the World ‘No Tobacco Day’ on May 31, 2021, Dr Aasim Yusuf said, “There are around 24 million people in Pakistan who use tobacco in some form. Successive governments have placed taxes on cigarettes which discourage youth from initiating cigarette smoking and encourage current smokers to quit. However, the revenue from tobacco tax is not earmarked for health sector. The revenue from tobacco tax should be spent on tobacco-related health issues such as cancer. Nearly 40% of adults seen at the facilities of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust have cancers linked with tobacco-use. Even we can build new hospitals with cancer tax,” he added. Dr Aasim further said that it is highly concerning that the tobacco epidemic is shifting to countries with fewer resources like Pakistan. The tobacco industry is targeting vulnerable population with sophisticated marketing strategies. Their tactics interfere with tobacco cessation and burden health systems which is preventable.” The session was also attended by consultant oncologists from Shaukat Khanum Hospital, Dr Samir Fasih and Dr Tahira Yasmeen, who said that tobacco is the largest preventable risk factor for four major non-communicable diseases that are cancers, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and diabetes.

Tobacco is dangerous in all its forms and addictive, including smoking cigarette, cigar, huqqah (water-pipe), sheesha, paan, gutka, etc. Smokers are at a higher risk of developing severe disease from the COVID-19 infection. All tobacco users should commit to quit. If they need professional help, we have support available in the form of intensive behavioural support, medication or advice by specially trained physicians.