Protect young generation from tobacco harms | By Amnah Jabeen


Protect young generation from tobacco harms

IN 2022 flood caused massive destruction in Pakistan. According to the official statistics, One million houses were flooded and millions of people are presently waiting for the government measures to rehabilitate them, but the government of Pakistan is not capable of completing the rehabilitation of these flood victims.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that hundreds of billions are required for the complete rehabilitation of the flood victims and in this regard the government has organized a donor conference in Geneva.

Unfortunately, where there is a cry of lack of resources at national level, there are also countless examples that by delaying some of the very simple but important matters, billions of rupees are lost from the national treasury.

For example, If the health levy tax is imposed only on tobacco, Rs 40 to 50 billion every year can be collected in the national exchequer and this income can not only be used for the improvement of the health sector but can also pave the way to address challenges like rehabilitation of flood victims.

The cost of health expenditure due to smoking in Pakistan is about 615 billion rupees, which is equivalent to 1.6% of Pakistan’s GDP, while the income from the tobacco industry is only 20% of the total cost.

In terms of Public health, many countries have started putting efforts for years to get rid of this scourge after learning from the experiences and researches that explain the bad effects of smoking on human health and society, effective legislation and policies were made to ensure its strict implementation.

However, our situation is far different from them and here people of all ages not only buy cigarettes, but due to the lack of law enforcement the smokers smoke freely at public places.

As compared to other countries, the use of tobacco among children and youth has increased alarmingly due to the fact that tobacco products are cheap and easily accessible in Pakistan.

More than 1200 children start smoking every day in Pakistan and every year more than 1 lakh 70 thousand people die due to tobacco-related diseases. And these numbers seems to be increasing every year.

Novel tobacco products ( E-cigarettes, Nicotine pouches, vapes and chewing gums etc.) are also easily available in the markets of Pakistan which is destructive for our youth and require effective measures to tackle this issue.

Modern products are harmful because they contain nicotine, which is the first step to many other forms of drug addiction and can cause serious physical and mental health problems in Young generations.

Novel products claimed to be smoking cessation products but are actually the new forms of addiction.

Researches have given detailed warnings about the dangers of these products. The effects of tobacco on human health are serious, but the uncontrolled usage of tobacco products is causing an additional loss of millions of rupees to the economy our country.

To prevent this irreparable damage, the federal cabinet in 2019 approved a bill to impose a health levy on tobacco products, with the efforts of health experts and anti-tobacco organizations to support the weak economy and to get rid of the scourge of smoking.

Rs 40 to 50 Billion per year can be added to the national exchequer and can help us in reducing the rising trend of tobacco consumption as well.

But due to the pressure of the tobacco industry, this bill could not be presented in Parliament for approval.

However, it is necessary to deal with difficult challenges such as the current economic situation of the country and the rehabilitation of the flood victims by increasing revenue on annual basis through imposing heavy taxes on tobacco products because there are so many examples from all over the world that countries have not only strengthened their economy by imposing heavy taxes on tobacco but also cleansed their societies from the scourge of tobacco.

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.