KARACHI - A recent report released by Our World in Data has endorsed the fact that tobacco smoking is one of the world’s largest health problems. “Millions of people live in poor health because of smoking and researchers estimate that every year around 8 million people die an early death due to smoking,” it says. The situation, health activists say, is more precarious in Pakistan than its neighbors. Commenting on the Our World in Data report, Dr Hassan Shehzad, from IIUI, says that it mentions a decline in a number of smokers worldwide. He says the prevalence of smoking is coming down because developed countries have placed health levies and higher taxes on this harmful product. The report estimates around 100 million deaths because of smoking in the 20th century. Currently, according to a World Bank study, over 80% of global deaths from cancer, diabetes, heart, and lung disease occur in low and middle-income countries, and this disparity is likely to grow based on current tobacco use patterns. Applying evidence-based interventions, such as significant tobacco tax and price increases, comprehensive smoke-free policies, and bans on all tobacco product advertising, promotion, and sponsorship would reduce the demand for tobacco products and significantly reduce the prevalence of tobacco use and the resulting death, disease, and economic costs. Khalil Dogar, from SPARC, says that there is a need to increase prices of cigarettes to make it harder to access.
He says that the recent increase in the FED on cigarettes was in line with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO), therefore the public should support the government’s move to discourage tobacco consumption. In developing countries, this increase in revenue could help create the fiscal space needed to help achieve their development priorities. Examples from countries such as Egypt, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam demonstrate how these revenues can be channeled into health initiatives, thereby alleviating some of the funding needs for the health sector. The so-called ‘sin tax’ reforms of the Philippines, for example, provided additional tobacco tax revenues to help finance a significant scale-up of subsidized health insurance for poor families.