islamabad - Around 1200 children below the age of 15 are getting addicted to tobacco consumption, while the affective tax reforms are required by the government for preventing easy access of cigarettes to the youth, Tuesday.

This was stated by representatives of Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), in a media briefing held here. SPARC is a rights group working for children in the country. 

Executive Director (ED) SPARC Sajjad Cheema urged the government for implementation of Sin tax on tobacco products. A sin tax is an instrument of excise tax, specifically levied on certain goods which are deemed injurious to the society.

He said  “Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance, 2002” which includes measures to stop people from smoking in public, ban on access to tobacco products near educational institutes and restriction on sale of cigarettes to those who are under 18.

But, he added, it has been reported that no complaint has been registered against the violators under this law. The complaint lodging mechanism shouldn’t be complicated for a common man.

He said it has been observed that majority of the smokers start smoking in their adolescent age therefore it is more important to curb tobacco consumption among teens, he said.

“One of the reasons behind this can be social acceptance and negligence on behalf of the parents and concerned authorities,” he added. In 2010, Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) was seen as a major stride forward in dissuading youth from tobacco use as it death with the manufacturers and retailers.

He further shared that SPARC’s ongoing work with vulnerable children is suggestive of the fact that tobacco products are easily accessible to minors including school going children and dropouts. He demanded the Government to bring effective tax reforms for preventing easy access of cigarettes to the youth.

Manager Programme Development at SPARC Ms Asiya said, Pakistan is a signatory to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control since 2005 (FCTC), under which it took a pledge to ensure smoke-free public places, reduce tobacco advertising and promotion and  to raise tobacco taxation and pricing. Health targets under Sustainable Development Goal’s also call upon the States to ensure compliance with Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), she added.

There’s also a need to initiate a drive regarding educating people about the reporting procedure and its aftermath. In this regard in 2017, Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC) directed to enforce tobacco control laws by nominating focal persons from respective ministries.

SPARC further demanded that retail price of a pack of cigarette should not be less than 100 rupees in order to discourage minors from easy access to tobacco. Although the Federal Excise Duty on tobacco has been increased from 16 to 25 rupees, yet it has not yielded substantive tax collection.

Around 1200 Pakistani children between the ages of 6-15 years start smoking every day, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) results of 2015.  Pakistan’s population consists of 60% people below the age of 25 where alarming statistics of young people getting addicted and at risk of tobacco consumption calls for strict and effective tax reforms. Worrisome aspect is the healthcare burden which is 143 billion as compared to revenue generation, which stands at 83 billion currently leading to loss to federal exchequer.

It is eminent that sale to the under age and of loose cigarettes has already been outlawed and the ban is being strictly observed in many areas of the county. The provincial Governments should also take steps in compliance with the aforementioned tobacco control laws.