SBP requested to ban tobacco use in banks

December 03, 2017

Islamabad - The Ministry of National Health Services has approached the State Bank of Pakistan to enforce tobacco control laws in banks to prevent the world’s largest cause of deaths in the country, said an official on Saturday.

A notification issued by the ministry stated that tobacco was the single largest preventable cause of deaths in the world and in Pakistan; it killed around 108,800 persons every year. As per the ratio, around 298 people die per day because of tobacco consumption.

The notification further said that it was not only the health of tobacco users that was a point of concern, but second-hand smoking was also a major cause of worry. Second-hand smoking is smoke inhaled by non-smokers from tobacco consumed by smokers.

The notification also added that in order to protect the masses from smoking, “The Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smoker’s Health Ordinance” was promulgated in 2002.  Section 5 of the ordinance bans smoking and use of tobacco in any form at public places or offices, waiting areas, conference/meeting halls, cafeterias, public services’ vehicles and places visited by general public. Under section 10, it is obligatory to display no-smoking signs at all places of public use or work.

In addition, SRO 654 (1) of 2003 authorises “managers of establishments where services are provided to the public whether for a charge or for free” as authorised persons to take action against the violators.

The authorised persons may expel the violators from any place of public work or use or may send a complaint in writing to the first class magistrate.

It will be highly-appreciated if necessary directions are issued to the relevant authorities to ensure compliance with the tobacco control law in all banks and other places of public work or use within your jurisdiction, the health ministry communication to the State Bank said.

The ministry had proposed to implement the already existing ant-tobacco law in the country by issuing administrative order instead of legislation on the proposed bill to reduce tobacco consumption in country.

Earlier, the health ministry had also intimated Ministry of Finance to increase federal excise duty (FED) on lower-slab cigarettes before the start of the new fiscal year; however, it was not endorsed.

Minister NHS Saira Afzal Tarar had written separate letters to the Ministry of Finance and to Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Revenue. The ministry suggested implementing tax and pricing policies on tobacco products referring to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). According to the letter, an increase of Rs44 per pack in FED on twenty lower-slab brands was recommended for the budget 2017-18. The minister had also requested for earmarking two per cent of the tobacco tax revenues for Prime Minister’s National Health Programme for Treatment of Non-Communicable Diseases.

“Tobacco taxes that translate into price increases are considered the single-most effective option for reducing tobacco use. Higher tobacco taxes save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs,” a letter stated.

The recommendations regarding increase of taxes on tobacco products were finalised by a technical working group constituted by the ministry. The board comprised experts from FBR, WHO, World Bank and the Tobacco Control Cell.

Spokesperson NHS Sajid Hussain Shah said that the measure had been taken to reduce tobacco consumption in the country.