ISLAMABAD: Change in taxation and planning policies is the need of the hour to curtail the growing use of tobacco, especially among youth, as cigarettes prices in the country remain the lowest in the region.

This was stated in a research study titled, ‘Health Implications of Smoking in Pakistan’, launched here on Monday said that Pakistan was facing crucial healthcare and financial issues due to increasing trend of smoking among the youth and poor implementation of the relevant laws and the policies.

Released by the Centre for Global and Strategic Studies (CGSS), an Islamabad based public policy institute and think-tank, the study has also suggested to the government to closely monitor the situation to ensure that the influence of multinational tobacco industry did not have any effect on the policies being implemented by legislative institutes.

Pakistan is included among 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 160,100 deaths annually.

The study said that Pakistan being a signatory to World Health Organisation (WHO) has pledged to take effective measures to reduce the demand of cigarettes by applying tools of price and taxes.

The WHO has recommended taxes up to 75pc of the retail price of tobacco products to discourage its use, the situation does not look good for Pakistan with a score of 0.88 out of 5 on cigarettes scorecard.

The CGSS has said the huge influence of tobacco industry over legislative bodies was a major factor behind the delay in imposition of the tax levy, the study said, adding that the low taxes were also contributing to growing use of the tobacco products in the country.

The study added that Pakistan was losing at least Rs55 billion in annual revenue for not implementing the federal cabinet’s May 2019 decision of imposing a tax levy on the cigarettes.

The cabinet had recommended an additional tax of Rs10 on each cigarette pack of 20 sticks.

Malik Imran Ahmed, country head of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the government should use the pricing and taxation mechanism to discourage smoking and overcome the related diseases.

He said the government can earn at least Rs40 billion in additional revenue by imposing the health levy on tobacco products.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2021

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