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ISLAMABAD: The affordability is found to be the main facilitator for smoking, especially at a younger age, and this could be countered by increasing taxes on tobacco-related products including cigarettes.

This has been revealed in a research study, ‘Switch, Reduce or Quit: How do smokers respond to tobacco tax increases in Pakistan,’ released by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), here on Monday.

The study found that the initiation age for tobacco use is as early as six years and young people in general and adolescents, in particular, are the most vulnerable to initiate tobacco use. The probability of starting using tobacco fades as people reach their forties, it said.

It said affordability that leads many younger age groups to start smoking could be cut by increasing taxes on tobacco-related products that could also help the government raise revenue.

The smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths globally, and consequently, various programs and interventionist policies have been suggested and implemented to curb tobacco use and reduce cigarette consumption.

Among these, tobacco taxation is the most effective, it said, adding that evidence suggests that significant increases in cigarette taxes are effective in reducing smoking initiation by non-smokers and cigarette consumption of smokers – either by reducing the number of cigarettes, they smoke or quitting completely.

It said the price-increase strategy – executed through taxation – effectively reduces overall prevalence of smoking.

Such evidence provides strong encouragement to public health experts worldwide, including those in Pakistan, to push their respective governments to use tax policy as a tool in the fight against tobacco consumption and its associated harms.

The tobacco excise taxes as a proportion of prices are much lower than the 70 percent minimum suggested by the Word Health Organization.

The taxes should be increased at least to this threshold to have a meaningful impact on reducing cigarette consumption in Pakistan, the study said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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