ISLAMABAD: Contrary to claims of the tobacco industry, only around 16 per cent of cigarettes consumed in Islamabad are classified as illicit. Moreover, smoking is inversely related to academic qualifications and prices in the federal capital.
This has been stated in a study, “The burden of illicit trade in cigarettes in Islamabad” launched by Fikr-i-Farda Organisation at a local hotel.
Mohammad Faisal of the NGO said the respondents appeared to be less educated (65.7pc were matriculate or below), 25.5pc were willing to quit smoking if prices of cigarettes were doubled.
“Moreover, 36.2pc were of the opinion that they would reduce smoking if the cigarette price was doubled. Besides, 1,131 covered by the study smoked 14,463 cigarettes per day. Out of these smokers, 179 were found smoking 2,307 sticks of illicit brands and 952 were using 12,156 sticks of legal brands.”
Talking about illicit cigarettes, Mr Faisal said cigarette brands failed to comply with the six-factor criteria - pictorial health warnings, textual health warning, low price, age warning, manufacturer details and printing of the retail price.
Study shows that contrary to claims of tobacco industry, only around 16pc of cigarettes consumed in Islamabad are illicit
Out of 15.95pc, only 10.74pc of cigarettes were illicit as smuggled and 5.2pc cigarettes were illicit as low priced or duty not paid (DNP). These DNP cigarettes met all the criteria of legitimate brands but were selling at a low price (Rs25-40).
Parliamentary Secretary Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) Dr Nausheen Hamid told the participants that tobacco use was the single largest preventable cause of death in the world and in Pakistan tobacco killed around 166,000 people every year.
She said in Pakistan 23.9 million adults used tobacco in any form and the annual economic cost of smoking was Rs143.208 billion.
“The report will be helpful in strategising tobacco control in Pakistan, especially while taking tobacco taxation measures to reduce demand for cigarettes.”
She expressed satisfaction over the findings of the study which showed that only 15.95pc of cigarettes consumed in Islamabad per day were classified as illicit. She said based on the overblown figures of the illicit trade in cigarettes, the policy of reducing cigarette prices was introduced in the previous government.
Globally, the tobacco industry lobbies for a favourable tax structure arguing that an increase in taxes would harm the economy and increase illicit trade.
In Pakistan, the industry claims that there is 40pc illicit trade. However, evidence from this report shows that the burden of illicit trade in cigarettes in Islamabad was almost half than quoted by the tobacco industry.
The report also counters the tobacco industry’s arguments about shifting of smokers towards cheaper brands if prices increased by showing that 61pc of the smokers would quit or reduce smoking if the price was increased. Only 8pc of the smokers would opt for cheaper cigarettes if the price was increased.
Technical head of Tobacco Control Cell at the ministry of NHS Dr Ziauddin Islam briefed the participants about the rational and intended benefits of the study in strategising tobacco taxation policy reforms in Pakistan.
He said the study would be replicated in all the provincial capitals to prepare national data.
“Though the tobacco industry claims that in case of an increase in prices, people would opt for cheaper and more hazardous cigarettes, it is interesting to know that people would either quit or reduce smoking. This report will play an important role in policy making,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA), Pakistan Chest Society and other medical organisations have announced to observe Ramazan 1 as the National No-Tobacco Day.
PIMA President Prof Mohammad Afzal Mian in a statement said Ramazan presented a blessed atmosphere in which accepting a good habit and quitting a bad one became relatively easier.
Many fasting smokers cut down on their tobacco usage substantially in Ramazan which is why this period can be used to urge smokers to take another step and quit altogether.
Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2019