ISLAMABAD: The new government is facing an uphill task to synchronize efforts between Ministry of National Health Services and the Ministry of Finance to counter the menace of smoking.

This has been disclosed by the government officials while talking to Business Recorder on the policy of the new government to tackle the issue of smoking.

According to a new report of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), with 24 million active tobacco users, Pakistan is among the world’s top tobacco-consuming countries.

Another Islamabad based Think Tank Capital Calling, has stated in a report that Pakistan has become a breeding ground for multinational cigarette companies.

An estimate revealed that the cigarette prices are the cheapest in Pakistan as compared to other countries in the region.

The PIDE report, however, adds that tobacco use is associated with many adverse health effects, but the tax revenue it generates cause tobacco tax policy inertia in Pakistan and other countries. “Despite evidence that higher tobacco taxation discourages tobacco consumption, Pakistan’s tax policy is among the weakest action areas in the country’s fight against tobacco,” it said.

The report stated that one explanation could be that the policymakers, who consider the tobacco industry a major contributor to government coffers, are reluctant to raise taxes fearing the revenue loss.

The PIDE report further stated that smoking prevalence in Pakistan is 8.8 percent. The total smoking-attributable fraction of the direct cost of three diseases is Rs 100.3 billion ($0.63 billion) of which the medical cost is 96 percent (Rs96.24 billion or $0.60 billion) and non-medical cost is four percent (Rs4.06 billion or $0.03 billion. Smoking-attributable indirect morbidity cost is Rs 56.32 billion ($0.35 billion). The morbidity cost is 56 percent.”

Prof Muhammad Zaman, from Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) who teaches Sociology, said that hazards of smoking should not be calculated in segments. The policymakers should look at it in totality. It is high time to discourage tactics of cigarette companies to influence governments the world over.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


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