ISLAMABAD: Computerised registration of tobacco sellers was going on in the capital, following which shopkeepers would not be able to sell tobacco products to minors, particularly near educational institutions.

This information was shared with participants by Excise and Taxation Department Director Bilal Azam at an event organised by the department in connection with ‘World No Tobacco Day’.

Mr Azam said over 500 places had been declared smoke-free zones, including public parks, high-rise buildings, public transport and restaurants.

Deputy Commissioner Irfan Memon said: “The Excise Office has conducted record operations against smuggled cigarettes and there is a complete ban on sale of cigarettes in educational institutions. We have introduced a tobacco control law. Other provinces are also going to introduce the Tobacco Vendor Act soon.”

Excise Office director says over 500 places declared ‘smoke-free’ zones

Additional Deputy Commissioner Shehryar Arif and a Ministry of National Health Services official, Dr Samra Mazhar, were also present on the occasion.

Meanwhile, Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) has urged the government to raise taxes on tobacco products to provide economic relief to citizens.

This demand has been made in the wake of the government’s decision to increase the price of petroleum.

Sparc Programme Manager Khalil Ahmed Dogar said the Rs30 increase in the price of petroleum could have been avoided if the government had instead increased the prices of cigarette packs by the same amount.

He said tobacco products were non-essential and hazardous items which were responsible for approximately 170,000 deaths every year.

“A struggling economy such as Pakistan should heavily tax such items to keep them out of reach of the lower income groups and children. However in Pakistan, tobacco products are being sold at lower rates compared to other South Asian countries,” he said.

Country lead for Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Malik Imran said there had been no “real change” in the taxes on cigarettes during the last four years, adding that the use of tobacco causes economic burden of Rs615 billion which is 1.6pc of Pakistan’s gross domestic product (GDP). On the other hand, the revenue generated from the tobacco industry is Rs120 billion.

“The new government has stated that it would not shy away from taking unpopular decisions to strengthen Pakistan’s economy. Any decision in the current scenario must be pro-people and raising tobacco taxes is one such decision which can help people and the economy at the same time,” he said.

Pims holds walk

Department of Cardiology of Pakistan Institute of Medial Sciences (Pims) held a walk in connection with ‘World Hypertension Day’ on Saturday.

Member National Assembly Mahreen Razzaq Bhutto, cricketer Majid Khan, retired DIG Raza Khan Barki and a large number of health practitioners and students participated in the walk. Head of the cardiology department Dr Naeem said that hypertension was a silent killer.

“People need to control their blood pressure, live a healthy life, avoid using salt and smoking, and eat healthy food,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2022

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