ISLAMABAD: Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH), in an open letter, has urged political personalities, sportsmen and showbiz stars to avoid becoming part of the tobacco industry campaign for tax relief.

In the letter it has been mentioned that prominent personalities of Pakistan, whose words count, were unknowingly becoming part of the campaign: Ab Khasara Bas Khudara which is launched by the tobacco industry.

“It is a pity that these innocent friends of ours are being provided with untrue information. And under a well-conceived conspiracy, the tobacco industry is making them part of its propaganda campaign to avoid increase in tobacco taxes, and the children of Pakistan continue to be addicted to it,” letter states.

“Now, in the name of Khasara Bus Khudara, the tobacco industry has launched a campaign justifying illegal trade, in which it was stated that the country is facing tax evasion of Rs70 billion due to illegal trade, which does not involve any credible investigation,” it stated.

Letter states that “on June 6, a report was issued stating that the illicit trade in cigarettes in Pakistan’s cities was much lower than the increase in cigarette taxes imposed on the government by the tobacco industry. The illicit trade in cigarettes in the country is less than 9pc, according to a certified research study by the Tobacco Control Journal.”

PANAH General Secretary Sanaullah Ghumman, while talking to Dawn, said that the tobacco industry used baseless propaganda in the name of illicit trade only to save itself from taxes.

“Now celebrities from reputable circles are being used because they have tens of thousands of followers and people listen to them,” he said.

“We request our friends/celebrities to pay attention to the opinions of medical and economic experts who have repeatedly stated from their experiences that Tobacco is harmful to health and is one of the major causes of many deadly diseases including heart attack and cancer.

Since Pakistan is facing an annual loss of over Rs615 billion due to health burden and more than 170,000 people lose their life every year, the opinion of health experts should be considered,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2021

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