Govt’s initiative to raise tobacco taxes for saving youth hailed

ISLAMABAD      -    Health activists have appreciated the government’s stance on increased tobacco taxes during an event organized by Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) here on Friday.

Health activists stated that this decision will help Pakistan’s economy provided that the government remains steadfast by not falling to tobacco industry’s misinformation campaign.

Malik Imran, country head, Campaign for tobacco- free kids (CTFK), at a discussion mentioned that tobacco is the biggest silent killer in Pakistan as more than 170,000 people die due to tobacco use each year. This pandemic also causes an annual economic burden of Rs 615 billion which is 1.6 percent of Pakistan’s GDP.

Dr Ziauddin Islam, former technical head, Tobacco Control Cell, Ministry of Health, mentioned that increased prices remain the most effective tool in keeping these killer products away from spending power of children and low-income groups. He thanked the prime minister for increasing FED in February and added that this good step should not remain a onetime activity.

SPARC programme manager Khalil Ahmed Dogar said that the children of Pakistan are being targeted by the tobacco industry so that ‘replacement smokers’ could be recruited. Around 1200 Pakistani children between the ages of 6-15 years start smoking every day. The sale of cigarettes to minors and near educational institutions remains a constant worry in the country. Khalil added that there should not be any politics on child rights. Anyone who takes a good step must be appreciated and supported. “Increasing tobacco taxes is such a step that all stakeholders must cast their differences aside and unite to protect our children and youth from the harms of tobacco, “ he added.

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