Today in Islamabad, the Society for the Protection of the Child’s Rights (SPARC) hosted a discussion on protecting Pakistani youth from tobacco hazards through long-term tobacco control policies.
Anti-tobacco activists proposed that the new government increase the FED on tobacco products by 30% to generate an additional Rs. 26 billion for human development.
Khalil Ahmed Dogar, Program Manager at SPARC, stated that the affordability and availability of tobacco products had increased the number of smokers to 29 million. Furthermore, 1,200 children start smoking every day, and 170,000 people die each year due to tobacco use.
He also stated that tobacco use imposes an economic burden of Rs. 615 billion, or 1.6 percent of Pakistan’s GDP, in contrast to the revenue generated by the tobacco industry (Rs. 120 billion in 2019), which accounts for approximately 20 percent of the total cost of smoking. This situation necessitates the immediate implementation of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation of a 30% increase in tobacco taxation. The increased tobacco tax will generate approximately Rs. 26 billion in revenue.
Dr. Ziauddin Islam, Country Lead of Tobacco Control Pakistan for Vital Strategies, stated that Pakistan’s youth make up 64 percent of the population, making them an easy target for the tobacco industry. Adolescents are viewed as replacement smokers by the industry. Cigarettes are available in Pakistan at some of the lowest prices in the region, making them easily accessible to the youth. Tobacco prices will rise, making it unaffordable for young people, who are more price sensitive.
Shariq Mahmood Khan, CEO of Chromatic Trust, stated that taxes are the most cost-effective tobacco control measure and urged the new government to raise tobacco taxes on tobacco products to reduce consumption and generate additional revenue.
Ch. Sanaullah Ghuman, General Secretary of the Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH), stated that smoking is very common among young people. To protect the youth, the new government should strictly enforce laws that prohibit the advertising, promotion, and sponsorship of all tobacco products, as well as increase the size of mandatory warning labels on cigarettes.
Tobacco companies have used strategies such as youth-oriented marketing for decades to entice young people into a lifetime of addiction. “We must not expose our youth to this fate,” Ghuman cautioned.