ISLAMABAD - Anti-tobacco activists on Saturday said that government should seriously take measures to frame a long-term policy for discouraging smoking in the country causing above hundred thousand deaths annually.

Representative Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Malik Imran informed The Nation that around Rs160,000 deaths are caused in country due to smoking in the country which is a high figure.

He said apart from alarming figure of deaths caused by smoking in the country, daily 1,200 new smokers of young age are being added in smokers’ camp. Imran said that where addition of smokers is serious threat for public health, it is also causing economic damage to the country.

He said that increased tobacco consumption and low taxes on multinational tobacco companies is causes Rs200 billion annually to the country’s economy.

Earlier, Ministry of National Health Services in its letter written to all federating units for the enforcement of tobacco control laws has said that according to Global Adult Tobacco Survey, 2014 almost 24million (19.1%) adults currently use tobacco in any form in Pakistan. Anti-tobacco activists also alleged that the contract for a system to track and trace cigarettes and to ensure that tobacco companies are paying their taxes has been awarded to a front for the tobacco industry.

They have also alleged that the rules for the award were amended to facilitate the company, which has no experience using a track and trace system for manufactured goods. Secretary General PANAH Sanaullah Ghuman had stated that tobacco industry once again has tricked the government and remained successful in awarding the track and trace system contract to its favoured company. “PANAH condemned this decision,” he said.

Ghuman said that multinational tobacco industry allegedly gave Rs150 billion damages to national exchequer by avoiding the tax and now again mistakes are being repeated.

A study conducted by Fikir Farda Organization on illicit cigarette trade said that that 61 per cent of the smokers would quit or reduce smoking if price is increased. Only 8 per cent of the smokers would opt for cheaper cigarettes if price is increased.

The report “The burden of illicit trade of cigarettes in Islamabad,” a policy of reducing cigarette prices was introduced by FBR in the last government regime. Globally, tobacco industry lobbies for favourable tax structure arguing that an increase in taxes will harm the economy and increase illicit trade.

The study found that there are only 15.95 per cent of the cigarettes per day consumed in Islamabad classified as illicit. And the burden of illicit trade in cigarettes in Islamabad is almost half than quoted by tobacco industry.

It also said that smoking is inversely related to academic qualification and price, the respondents appear to be less educated (65.7 per cent were matriculate or below), 25.5 per cent were willing to quit smoking if the price of cigarettes be doubled.