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ISLAMABAD: The number of smokers in Pakistan has reached over 29 million, as the total number of tobacco users in the world reach 1.1 billion across the world, endangering Pakistan’s efforts to achieve 30 percent tobacco use reduction target by 2025.

A latest study published in the Lancet journal revealed that smoking killed almost 8 million people in 2019 and the number of smokers rose as the habit was picked up by young people around the world.

A former head of the Tobacco Control Cell Pakistan and Country’s former focal person for FCTC Dr Ziauddin Islam said the government should increase tax on all tobacco products in the upcoming budget to reduce the number of smokers and bring down the overall health expenditure.

The government would have to implement health levy to increase taxes on tobacco products to achieve the 30 percent tobacco use reduction target by 2025, he said, adding that prices of cigarettes have not increased in Pakistan for the last four years.

Dr Zia said the government should also take concrete steps to thwart the influence of tobacco lobby over the officials, so that taxes on the product should be increased significantly in the upcoming budget.

The study’s authors said governments across the globe need to focus on reducing the uptake of smoking among young people, as 89 percent of new smokers were addicted by the age of 25 but beyond that age were unlikely to start.

According to the study, half of all the countries had made no progress in stopping uptake among 15 to 24-year-old and the average age for someone to start was 19, when it is legal in most places.

Despite 182 countries signing a 2005 convention on tobacco control, enforcing policies to reduce smoking had been varied. Researchers said taxation was the most effective policy but there was a significant discrepancy between the high cost of a packet of cigarettes in developed countries and significantly lower costs in low and middle-income countries.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021