ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) in a research report has said taxes on tobacco should be increased as per the suggestion made by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to reduce smoking in Pakistan.

The PIDE report released recently called upon the government to follow the suggestion of WHO and increase the excise duties on tobacco up to 70 per cent of the price of product.

PIDE said smoking was one of the leading causes of preventable deaths globally and among various policy interventions tobacco taxation is the most effective to reduce cigarette consumption.

The report, “Switch, reduce, or quit: how do smokers respond to tobacco tax increases In Pakistan?” stated that higher cigarette taxes deter smoking initiation, reduce cigarette consumption and even lead smokers to quit.

“Hence, the price increase strategy through taxation effectively reduces the overall prevalence of smoking,” the report stated and referred to the earlier PIDE report regarding the economic cost of tobacco induced diseases in Pakistan.

The report turned down the argument by the tobacco industry that the illicit trade would benefit if the taxes were increased in the country and said most smokers start at the young age and programmes aimed at discouraging tobacco initiation should be redesigned to effectively target the youth, especially those in their teens and early twenties.

Among various awareness campaigns and other tobacco control measures, making tobacco products expensive through taxation can be a useful tool, it added.It said 50pc increase in price would lead to the same amount of reduction in cigarette demand. Affordability is found to be the main facilitator for smoking, especially at a younger age.

The report also added that as per international comparison the price of high end brand pack of 20 cigarettes should be Rs716 or more but the prices of cigarettes in Pakistan are low giving plenty of space for significant increase in tobacco taxes.

“A more worrying observation is that the initiation of tobacco use among adolescents is significantly high,” it said, adding around 60pcof smokers start using tobacco during their adolescent years and among smokers the majority - around 65pc - use cheaper brands, showing that affordability encouraged smoking.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2021

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