ISLAMABAD: Pakistanis face up to $1.3 billion in health costs annually due to diseases caused by tobacco products.

A research study, “Health implications of smoking in Pakistan,” launched here on Tuesday by Centre for Global and Strategic Studies stated that cardiovascular diseases alone were costing $0.9bn annually to the country where financial resources were already limited for development projects. Other major diseases caused by the tobacco products included lung cancer and tuberculosis.

The report also referred to the official data of Federal Bureau of Statistics that tobacco worth Rs25bn was used in cigarette production in 2019-20.

Pakistan was included among 15 states bearing the worst impacts of smoking related health problems. Data showed that 22 million Pakistanis consume tobacco related products daily, causing deaths of 160,100 individuals annually.Pakistan was to take effective measures to reduce the demand of cigarettes by applying tools of price and taxes, and World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended taxes up to 75 per cent of the retail price of tobacco products to discourage its use.

On the other hand, Pakistan only has 0.88 points out of five on cigarettes scorecard, the study pointed out, adding various institutional and resource constraints had 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.

The study referred to the target number 3.4 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) wherein Pakistan has committed to reduce non-communicable diseases by one-third till 2030.

“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 is yet to be implemented,” the study added.

“The influence of tobacco industry seems to be a factor behind the delay in imposition of the tax levy.”

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2021

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