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ISLAMABAD: A latest survey by Islamabad’s Centre for Research and Dialogue (CRD) confirmed a significant 18 percent drop in smoking rates in Pakistan, linked to rising cigarette prices.

This success highlights the effectiveness of high tobacco taxes, a strategy backed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The survey report recently released found a marked decrease in cigarette consumption, with 15 percent of respondents reporting they cut back due to higher prices. This translates to an estimated 11 billion fewer cigarettes smoked annually. It’s important to note that Pakistan’s total consumption, ranging from 72 to 80 billion sticks a year, includes taxed, smuggled and untaxed products.

The survey mentioned while these results are promising, Pakistan still has some of the world’s cheapest cigarettes. This gap highlights the need for further tax increases to effectively curb smoking. It also said government’s decision to raise Federal Excise Duty (FED) rates by 146% for cheaper brands and 154% for premium brands in 2023 has been a key factor in the decline. However, these increases, cigarettes in Pakistan remain much cheaper than in countries of south Asia.

Director of CRD, Maryam Gul Tahir, urged the Pakistani government to build on these gains and continue raising cigarette prices to maintain the decline in smoking.

“Pakistan has a long way to go in tobacco taxation,” she emphasizes. “Public health must be prioritized over industry interests,” she said.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also advocate for stronger taxation, recognizing the link between higher prices and lower consumption.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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