Islamabad - Pakistan is amongst the developing countries with a very high tobacco prevalence and high mortality rate, where above 100000 people die due to tobacco inducted diseases, the study revealed on Wednesday.

According the study conducted by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on national treasury versus public health 2018-19, it was learned that there are above 23.9 million tobacco users in the country, out of which 125000 are dying every year because of tobacco inducted diseases.

The report stated that in Pakistan lung and mouth cancer has a higher prevalence as compared to other forms of cancer and both of these are etiologically linked with tobacco use because tobacco smoke is a mixture of gas and particles that contain over 4000 chemicals, 60 of which are known to cause cancer.

The study said that to control the health hazard in the country there is no coherent policy and different stake holders are working on different directions. On one hand smoking promotion actors like Pakistan Tobacco Board which promotes tobacco cultivation or FBR which has protected local industry at the cost of increased smoking prevalence.

Meanwhile, Ministry of National Health Services recently banned the sale of loose cigarettes to minors to reduce the smoking epidemic.

The study said that the introduction of the 3rd tier has completely ignored the health burden on individuals and society which would grow because of reduction in prices it has brought along.

Before price reduction due to the 3rd tier, 79% of smokers used to buy loose cigarettes and after price reduction that number reduced to 28%, study said.

The study also said that before the price reduction 21% were buying packets and after price reduction, that proportion increased to 72%.

The study suggested that illicit trade should have been brought down through better enforcement not through reduction in prices of cigarettes. Instead of going for tax related measures, the focus should be on strong enforcement of laws that can address illicit trade.

According to the report cigarettes are the most commonly used medium for tobacco consumption and annual cigarette consumption in Pakistan is around 86.7 billion sticks 3 (49 billion in 19974). Annual local production averages above 57 billion sticks.

Representatives of Pakistan National Heart Foundation (PANAH) and Human Development Foundation (HDF) said in après briefing held that because of low taxation on tobacco industry youth particularly new smokers can easily purchase the cigarettes.

Sanaullah Ghumman from PANAH said that above 10000 tobacco consumers in the country 40 percent are children who start smoking at the age of 10. He said that Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) in its previous budget had reduced the tobacco industry tax from 32 percent to 16 percent.

“While in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Europe the tax on tobacco products is nearly 70 percent,” he said. Col (rtd) Azhar Saleem from HDF said that total allocation for public health in its exchequer is only 2.6 percent while the low taxation reduces the cigarette price and increases its sale.  “The profit of the national exchequer could not be made at the cost of human health,” he said.

He further said that the government must eliminate the third slab of cigarette which has low price cigarette brands and should use the 2 percent tax collected by tobacco industry for public health safety.