Weak implementation of laws encourages tobacco consumption

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islamabad – Weak implementation of the tobacco control law in the country has placed it amongst the countries with the highest prevalence of smoking, while the tobacco consumption is one of the leading causes of health disease here, a study said.  The Human Development Foundation (HDF) in a study conducted on tobacco control in the country demanded for a sin-tax on tobacco industry to discourage smoking in the country. The study disclosed that Pakistan is ranked on the 54th position amongst 84 countries with the highest prevalence of tobacco smoking. The cost of smoking in Pakistan, associated with the outbreak of NCDs (Non-Communicable Diseases) and other tobacco related diseases is reported to be around Rs. 143.208 billion in the year 2017, the study said.

Pakistan became a signatory to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2005 under which it took a pledge to ensure smoke-free public places, reduce tobacco advertising and promotion and to raise tobacco taxation and pricing. The Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers’ Health Ordinance of 2002 incorporated necessary SROs (Statutory Regulatory Orders) to abide by the clauses of the WHO’s FCTC; although, the non-compliance of the law in public places including in banks, universities and restaurants remains alarmingly high.

The GATS (Global Adult Tobacco Survey) results of 2015 are proven to be further alarming and indicate that the usability of tobacco products is Pakistan is very high with around 31.8% of men and 5.8% of women being addicted to cigarettes and other tobacco products.  According to FCTC, increasing taxes on tobacco products is one of the most effective ways of cutting down consumption; however, Pakistan has witnessed an unfortunate series of events in the form of resistance from the powerful tobacco industry which has always vehemently lobbied against the tobacco law introduction and implementation in the country.

Aamer Mehmood Kiani, the Federal Minister for National Health Services, has recently called for the coordination efforts with the Ministry of Finance to raise the cigarette taxation since cigarettes have proven to be a major cause of NCDs (Non-Communicable Diseases) and the subsequent deaths in Pakistan. Speaking at the first-ever health festival organized by the Hashoo Foundation and committing to further increase on tobacco products and sugary drinks, Kiani said, “Tobacco is the leading cause of health diseases in Pakistan and stricter measures must be adopted to eliminate its consumption in the country.”

A sin tax is an instrument of excise tax, specifically levied on certain goods which are deemed injurious to the society and includes products like soft drinks, coffee, sugar, fast food and tobacco.

According to the World Bank, the Excise taxes on tobacco products cannot only prove to be an effective instrument for promoting public health through eliminating smoking, but can also raise significant revenues for a nation’s exchequer.

If designed and implemented well, excise taxes can be a win-win for a country’s health and finance sector simultaneously. While the public policy rationale for excise reforms is solid in both developing and developed countries, the authorities seeking to make reform happen usually face substantial degree of opposition from the tobacco industry.

In Pakistan this lobby has long been sabotaging the efforts of the civil society by releasing falsified studies under which they have incorrectly claimed the illicit trade of tobacco to be at 40%.

This has been proven wrong by an alternate study conducted by Human Development Foundation (HDF) which reveals that illicit tobacco trade in Pakistan is only at 9%.

Sustainable Environment Human Development Foundation’s Zahid Shafiq said that it has now become integral to abolish the third tier and to follow the stipulated rules by FCTC. According to him, “The global health statistics have revealed that every year $1.436 trillion are spent to deal with non-communicable diseases caused by smoking worldwide, out of which around 40% is to be paid by developing countries like Pakistan. We demand stronger tax reforms with the likes of sin-tax suggested by the health minister.” 

Source : https://nation.com.pk/14-Oct-2018/weak-implementation-of-laws-encourages-tobacco-consumption