ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar on Friday said that the government has proposed new taxes on tobacco items in coming budget 2014-15 to reduce prevalence of tobacco use in the country.
Addressing a press conference here, the minister said that a technical working group on tobacco taxation is being formed with representatives from the ministry of Health services, WHO and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to decide tobacco tax matters.
She said that the government has taken several steps to stop smoking including ban on tobacco advertisement from May 31st in print media, on television or radio, cable television or close circuit television network.
She said there will be also ban on tobacco advertisement on hard or soft on store boards, fascia affixed outside a shop, kiosk or mobile trolley, billboard whether fixed or mobile.
She said that rotation of pictorial health warning on cigarette packs will be ensured while signage (plastic plates carrying tobacco control messages) in all ministries will be installed.
She added National Tobacco Control programme for tobacco control will be launched while the federal government will coordinate with provincial governments to ensure enforcement of tobacco control laws especially ban on sale of cigarettes and other smoking substance to minors.
Saira Afzal Tarar also told about various achievements of Tobacco Control Board. She said that Tobacco Control Cell, since its inception, is implementing demand and supply reduction strategies to reduce tobacco use in Pakistan.
She said the cell introduced Pictorial Health Warning on cigarette packs and outers. Pakistan was among first 28 countries who introduced pictorial warnings on cigarette packs and banned on free samples, cash rebates, discounts and sponsorship of events, she added.
She also apprised about restrictions on tobacco advertisement, promotion and sponsorship activities and declaration of places of public work or use completely smoke-free or Illegalization of areas.
She highlighted achievements of Board about incorporation of tobacco control messages in curriculum as Punjab has incorporated, establishment of basic tobacco control infrastructure in 20 project districts and formation besides activation of Provincial and District Implementation Committees on Tobacco Control.
The minister said a Provincial Tobacco Control Cell was created in Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa
She said various achievements of board included, development, printing and dissemination of information, education and communication materials, over 322 capacity building sessions with law enforcement officers and authorized persons, tv, radio programmes, newspapers articles, development and dissemination of advocacy kits on Tobacco Control for parliamentarians and journalists, production and airing of two documentary films on tobacco control (in English, Urdu, Sindhi and Pushto), declaration and implementation of Smoke-free Islamabad initiative, legal action against tobacco companies and sheesha sellers etc.. enforcement of tobacco control laws and letters to provincial health ministers for enforcement of tobacco control laws.
WHO representative to Pakistan Dr Nima Saeed Abid said that globally, tobacco use currently causes 5.4 million premature deaths each year and about half of all tobacco deaths occur between the ages of 35 and 69.
He said if current trends continue one billion people will die from tobacco use in the 21st century. While deaths caused by tobacco are expected to fall in high-income countries, as they are expected to double to 6.8 million in low and middle-income countries by 2030.
He urged to raise taxes on tobacco to bring revenue for the government and for health programmes, reducing tobacco use and preventing young people from starting to smoke and making communities and economies healthier.
He also urged for effective implementation of the existing laws and also making necessary amendments to bring it in conformity with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and WHO MPOWER six strategies.
He said that raising tobacco taxation (minimum 70pc) is widely considered the single most effective option for reducing tobacco use. A 10pc increase in average cigarette prices in Pakistan will lead to about a 5pc reduction in cigarette usage in Pakistan, he added.