80pc of global deaths from cancer, heart, lungs caused by smoking


LAHORE – According to a World Bank study, more than 80% of global deaths from cancer, diabetes, and heart and lung disease occur in low and middle-income countries. This disparity is expected to increase due to current tobacco use patterns.

To combat this, evidence-based interventions are needed, such as significant tobacco tax and price increases, comprehensive smoke-free policies, and bans on tobacco product advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.

Khalil Dogar from SPARC supports increasing the price of cigarettes to make it harder to access and reduce tobacco consumption. The recent increase in the Federal Excise Duty (FED) on cigarettes in Pakistan is in line with WHO recommendations and should be supported by the public to discourage tobacco consumption.

Smoking remains one of the worst health issues globally, according to a recent analysis by Our World in Data, resulting in millions of individuals suffering from poor health and an estimated 8 million premature deaths per year. This is especially important for low- and middle-income nations, like Pakistan, where the situation is more unstable than in its neighbours.

Dr Hassan Shehzad from IIUI contends that although the report indicates a decrease in smokers worldwide, this is primarily due to higher taxes and health levies on tobacco products in developed nations, which have lowered demand for tobacco products, the prevalence of tobacco use, and death, disease, and economic costs associated with it.

Increasing revenue from tobacco taxes can be channelled into health initiatives in developing countries to alleviate some of the funding needs for the health sector. For instance, ‘sin tax’ reforms in Egypt, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam provided additional tobacco tax revenues to finance subsidized health insurance for poor families.

Sanaullah Ghumman from PANAH believes that the government should increase FED to collect an additional Rs60 billion from taxes on cigarettes. The average Pakistani spends around 10% of their total monthly income on cigarettes, and higher taxes on tobacco products are the only solution to protect youth from the menace. Multinational tobacco companies often show their production less to the government to evade taxes, sell their underreported stock in the open market, causing a loss of billions of rupees to the national exchequer.

Rigorous evidence from across the world demonstrates that increasing the price of tobacco products through higher taxation is the most effective way to reduce tobacco consumption. Dogar also appreciates the government for implementing a track and trace system that eliminates the chances of illicit trade of cigarettes. However, more stringent taxes on cigarettes are still required to protect the health of the masses and earn revenues.