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ISLAMABAD: The recently launched Statistical Bulletin Report revealed that more than 64 billion cigarettes were consumed by Pakistanis during the fiscal year (FY) 2014.

Civil society and rights groups have expressed disappointment over the government’s performance in curbing tobacco use.

According to the report Pakistanis smoked away Rs250 billion in the form of cigarettes during the period.

Terming the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) report an eye-opener for the authorities, TheNetwork for Consumer Protection (TN) Executive Coordinator Nadeem Iqbal called upon the government to implement tobacco control laws in letter and spirit. The report speaks volumes about the government’s inefficiency in controlling menace of tobacco, he said.

“The situation is much more alarming because the SBP report is based only on official sales/record and relates to smoking alone. There is no mention of smokeless tobacco including gutka, naswar and paan.”

The government, he said, seemed addicted to tobacco revenue (annual revenue) regardless of the fact that it would be translated into huge health costs.

“After the SBP report, the government should come clean on how much it earns in terms of tobacco revenue and how much people spend on smoking,” Mr Iqbal said.

Quoting statistics of the report of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, Nadeem Iqbal said cigarette consumption during the last two decades had registered an upward trend and between 1997 and 2008, aggregate cigarette consumption rose by nearly 55 per cent.

In 2008 alone, some 76 billion cigarettes were consumed. In the same period, per capita cigarette consumption rose by nearly 23pc.

According to the Pakistan Demographic Health Survey, 46 per cent men and 5.7 per cent women smoke tobacco.

Over 100,000 deaths are attributed to tobacco use each year in Pakistan, with most deaths resulting from lung and other cancers, strokes, ischemic heart and respiratory diseases.

“At a time, when statistics are revealing such shocking facts, is it logical for the government to let revenue generating tobacco business go on unchecked,” Mr Iqbal said.

He said the minister for national health services expressed commitment to tobacco control, but it has yet to be translated into reality.

Published in Dawn, October 29th , 2014