THE recent report of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) on the economic cost of tobacco-induced diseases in the country is very shocking.

According to the report, the total costs attributable to all smoking-related diseases and deaths in Pakistan for the year 2019 were Rs615.07 billion, or $3.85bn. This amount was five times higher than the overall tax revenue the government generated from the tobacco industry, which was Rs120bn in 2019.

Tobacco kills over 166,000 people every year in the country. Despite evidence that higher tobacco taxation discourages tobacco consumption, Pakistan’s tax policy is among the weakest action areas in the country’s fight against tobacco.

One explanation could be that the policymakers, who consider the tobacco industry a major contributor to government coffers, are reluctant to raise taxes fearing the consequent loss of revenue.

The fact remains that the price of cigarettes in Pakistan are among the cheapest anywhere in the world, and this encourages our youth to get hooked on to this powerful addictive substance.

Last year, the federal cabinet approved Rs10 per cigarette pack health levy (sin tax), but for one reason or the other this additional tax was never implemented.

As budget time is fast approaching, I would ask the government to increase taxes on cigarettes in order to reduce the burden of tobacco-related diseases on the country.

Prof Javaid Khan
National Alliance for Tobacco Control


RAMAZAN is a great opportunity for Muslims to quit smoking which is hazardous to the health of not just the smokers, but also to the health of those around them. As for the excuse that smoking provides relief against tension, it is unfounded and baseless reasoning.

Smoking is the major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, emphysema and cancers, particularly cancers of the larynx, mouth, lung, pancreas, etc.

The epidemic of tobacco use among women is increasing in some countries. They comprise about 20 per cent of the world’s more than one billion smokers. Especially troubling is the rising prevalence of shisha use among girls. Shisha is gaining immense popularity among the youth of the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, posing serious health risks to their lives. It is served with certain flavours and aromatic substances.

Many restaurants and cafes are offering shisha in Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and other cities. Shisha smoking is more than a fashion and is portrayed as a status symbol for the younger generation.

The government must enforce laws to curb smoking and take note of the rising trend of cigarette and shisha smoking among youngsters.

Shahzad Lodhi

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2021


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