THIS is with reference to the article ‘Tax tobacco now’ (June 3). One agrees with the assertion of taxing tobacco as a way of generating revenues and decreasing the use of tobacco. However, that is not going to be enough if the idea is to discourage tobacco consumption in the country.

There is no point in disregarding the ground realities in Pakistan. The number of smokers and tobacco consumers has been on the rise in the country. And, when the writer concerned was the federal health minister just a couple of years ago, the sin tax on tobacco could not be accommodated in the budget. In other words, taxing tobacco is a task easier said than done because of a variety of reasons.

There is an illicit cigarette market in Pakistan. Tobacco control activists and the industry may differ on the volume of illicit cigarette manufacturing in the country, but they do exist and everybody knows it. Taxing tobacco may well be an effective strategy to discourage the use of tobacco, but to present it as a panacea to the issue of smoking prevalence and also to Pakistan’s debt trap is perhaps stretching it a bit too much.

Isn’t it strange that Pakistan is taking all the right steps under the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), but there has not been substantial decrease in the number of smokers? We need to look around and see what the world is trying to stub out the cigarettes.

It is high time Pakistan looked at how, say, the United Kingdom has been employing tobacco harm reduction to plan for phasing out smoking completely by 2030.

Junaid Ali Khan
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2022

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