Increase tobacco taxes to save future generations!

Tobacco usage has become a serious cause for concern around the world, given its consequences on the health of addicts and those who are around them. Active and passive intake of tobacco has destroyed many lives. People especially our youth is indulging in the use of other drugs (Products of Tobacco)  like cocaine, marijuana, and heroin, which are also injurious for health.

“Health is Wealth” is a famous English saying, but unfortunately the smokers and drug abusers are wasting their health and wealth too by giving in to the short-term gratification these drugs cause.

Intake of Tobacco delivers nicotine to the body, which is an addictive drug. Tobacco also contains many other chemicals in addition to nicotine that cause serious health problems. All forms of tobacco are harmful, there is no safe level of exposure to any kind of it.

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Cigarette smoking is the most common form of tobacco that is used worldwide. Smoking or vaping is extremely injurious to health, yet the number of teenage smokers is increasing day by day. Students are becoming highly addicted to it.

Many young people who are living in hostels of universities are openly indulging in smoking on educational premises, this has become a common practice among them. While being completely oblivious of different kinds of dangers associated with smoking, students smoke for the sake of fitting in or acting cool. But the truth is that smoking is the major cause of throat, mouth, or lung cancer and many other serious diseases.

Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, many of which are known for causing cancer, so there is no point in risking your own life and the lives of others.

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Recent reports on tobacco consumption state:

In Pakistan, 19% of the people over the age of 15 years use tobacco in different forms, and tobacco kills many people every year besides causing Rs.615 billion worth of smoking-related illnesses.

According to recent reports: Tobacco kills over 163,600 people/Year in Pakistan. Almost 31,000 of these deaths are due to exposure to passive smoking. It causes about 16%  and 4.9% male-female deaths. Overall, 10.9% of all deaths are caused by tobacco.

66.5% of deaths are caused by tracheal, bronchus, and lung cancer, 53.2% deaths are by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 21.9%  deaths are by ischemic heart disease, 15.2% deaths by diabetes mellitus, and 16.8% deaths are because of stroke.

We need to restrict the use of tobacco, in order to save the lives of our future generations. Our youth face severe pressures to smoke. Smoking in movies, music, gaming videos, and advertisements portrays tobacco usage as a norm, this is encouraging our kids to smoke. Besides this when their parents or seniors use tobacco, they’re more likely to indulge in that.

The impact of smoking not only affects the health of our youth but their future too which is disastrous for a country like Pakistan comprises about 50% of its population of youth. Young smokers are more likely to develop nicotine addiction as compared to adults, which leads to continued tobacco use as they grow older.

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An alarming situation for us is that our economic and health cost of tobacco consumption is higher than Pakistan’s yearly public health spending. Tobacco companies make billions of dollars and are getting profit even after paying heavy taxes.

In this regard, a foundation Pledge Against the Consumption of Tobacco (PACT) launched a campaign to push the government for minimizing the consumption of tobacco this campaign is supported by civil society activists, health experts, and journalists for the implementations of tobacco control policies in Pakistan.

They are raising awareness about tobacco harm, doing researches, and making reports on it. This campaign stated that the tobacco smoking-attributable direct cost is 8.3% of the total health expenditures, which amounts to 1.6% of Pakistan’s GDP.

In comparison, the total tax contribution of the tobacco industry (Rs.120 billion) is only around 20% of the total cost of smoking. The current tax structure enables the tobacco industry to sell cheaper cigarettes.

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Considering the economic and health costs of tobacco consumption, an increase of 4 to 5 times the current tax rate is strongly recommended.  Now it is the biggest responsibility of our government to fulfill the commitments that they had made in the UN in 2005 for reducing the usage of tobacco in Pakistan.

Government must raise excise taxes to meet the recommended threshold of WHO which is 70% of the retail price of a cigarette pack. Low prices of tobacco products (cigarette prices in Pakistan are among the lowest in the world) make them affordable for young people.

The effective tax rate on cigarettes is still the same as it was 2years ago, the government had imposed new taxes on tobacco products but because of the pressure imposed by the tobacco mafia, they had minimized it to that same level. Because of such easy affordability, almost 1,000 children between the ages of 6  and 15 start smoking in Pakistan every day.

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Now it’s the right time for policymakers to realize that by adopting the tobacco tax reforms model we will be able to lower down the rate of cigarette smoking to 6.4%. Let’s pledge to provide a tobacco-free environment by raising awareness about the harms and hazards of tobacco in order to provide a healthier future for our children.

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