ISLAMABAD: Citing facts from a World Health Organisation (WHO) report about rising tobacco consumption in Pakistan, health experts have urged the government to raise taxes on tobacco products by at least 30pc to curb tobacco use among youth in the country.

In this regard, a joint press conference was held on Friday at the National Press Club.

Speakers demanded raising taxes on tobacco products in the upcoming budget for 2021-22. Ch. Sana Ullah Ghuman, secretary general, Pakistan National Heart Association (Panah) said tobacco taxation is a critical element of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy; however, to fully realise its benefits, it is important to understand the impact of increased taxes among high-risk subpopulations.

He added that the tobacco industry is mainly targeting youth – 64pc of the country’s population. Khalil Ahmed Dogar, programme manager, Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) shared compelling facts from a WHO report stating about 1,200 children in Pakistan between the ages of six and 15 start smoking every day because cigarettes are available at an affordable rate.

In Pakistan alone, about 166,000 people die every year due to tobacco-related diseases and one of the proven policies to reduce tobacco control worldwide has been raising taxes.

“The government needs to take action from the next fiscal year and raise taxes on tobacco at least by 30pc,” he added.

Sahriq Khan, programme director, Chromatic Trust said that since young people do not have financial means, they will get discouraged from smoking if prices of cigarette packs increased.

It is important to save the youth as Pakistan has one of the largest youth cohorts in the world and products like tobacco cause poor health and loss of productivity, he pointed out, adding health costs of tobacco-related diseases and lost productivity are much higher than the revenue generated by tobacco products. Henceforth, raising the tax on tobacco products is imperative this fiscal year.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2021

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