MY uncle, who had been a dedicated smoker, quit smoking when he moved to Australia last year because of the higher prices of cigarettes there, and, indeed, the social restrictions that make smoking a tricky affair in most situations.

For instace, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a tax that increases tobacco prices by 10 per cent ends up decreasing tobacco consumption by about 4pc in high-income countries (HICs), and about 5pc in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Almost all developed nations have imposed high taxes on tobacco products. There is a dire need to adopt this practice locally in order to reduce tobacco consumption and to generate greater revenue.

Owing to its deleterious effects, tobacco is one of the worst public health threats in developing countries of the world. The WHO estimates that around 80pc of the world’s 1.3 billion tobacco users live in LMICs. Illicit trade of tobacco products ensures the availability of tobacco products at a cheap price, and that needs to be halted. It is estimated that one in every 10 cigarettes and tobacco products consumed globally happens to be illicit.

Moreover, tobacco leads to poverty, health issues as well as environmental challenges in multiple ways. People spend their earnings on cigarettes, and then spend more on their health which is affected by tobacco use. It is a vicious cycle that continues unabated.

Besides, smoking pollutes the air and puts others’ health at risk. According to the WHO, tobacco kills more than eight million people each year, including an estimated 1.3 million non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke, because of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Other alternatives of smoking, including the use of e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products (HTPs) and nicotine pouches, are generally considered less harmful, but there is no scientific evidence that they are less detrimental to human health. In fact, these items produce aerosols containing nicotine and toxic chemicals upon heating of the tobacco, or activation of a device containing the tobacco.

As a remedy to the menace of tobacco, the most viable solution for developing nations, especially for Pakistan, is to increase the prices of tobacco products, and stop their illicit trade so that people may feel either encouraged or forced to quit smoking and live a healthy life.

Imama Khalid
Hyderabad

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2024

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