Urgent need to increase taxes on tobacco products to save Pakistani youth, economy: Solangi

ISLAMABAD   -   In a collaborative effort to tackle the urgent issue of tobacco consumption in Pakistan, the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) organised a prominent event in partnership with the Punjab Group of Colleges (PGC) to celebrate World No Tobacco Day 2024. The event, aimed to highlight the voices of youth against big tobacco. Former Caretaker Minister of Information and Broadcasting of Pakistan Murtaza Solangi while speaking at this occasion said that Pakistan has the largest generation of young people ever recorded in national history. However, due to the relaxed tobacco control policy in Pakistan, this group is severely exploited by the tobacco industry, putting their health and future at extreme risk, he added. He said that tobacco and nicotine addiction serves as a gateway to many other forms of substance abuse and may cause serious health and mental health issues among youth. He said that if the attempts of the tobacco industry to attract young customers are not kept in check through proper mechanisms, they will grow more powerful and keep being the cause of deaths and diseases in the country. He further said that Pakistan faces a significant challenge with widespread tobacco consumption, with over 31.9 million adults aged 15 years and above identified as current tobacco users, constituting nearly 19.7% of the adult population. Smoking-related illnesses claim over 160,000 lives annually, both the World Health Organization and the World Bank have consistently recommended Pakistan to improve its tobacco taxation. Country Head Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), Malik Imran Ahmad said that a 26.6% FED increase for the fiscal year 2024-25, appears to be a significant step forward.

 Not only could it help recoup a substantial portion of healthcare costs, but it also has the potential to discourage hundreds of thousands of individuals from smoking. Additionally, he said that the projected revenue increase could be valuable for funding various public health initiatives and strengthening the national economy. 

Director Punjab Group of Colleges, Ch. Muhammad Akram emphasised the key role of academic institutions stated that by taking a proactive stance against tobacco use, educational institutions can contribute to creating healthier environments for their students and staff by introducing extracurricular activities. He said that instilling values of wellness and responsibility, educational institutions can help create a culture where tobacco use is not accepted or glamorized. 

“This not only benefits the current student body but also has long-term effects on the health and well-being of future generations,” he maintained.

Program Manager SPARC, Dr Khalil Ahmad Dogar said that 10-stick cigarette pack is another tactic of tobacco industry to lure more children and adolescents towards smoking because it will be more cost effective.

Hence, it will be purchased easily by students, he added. 

He said that the government of Pakistan and relevant ministries should see this as a way to destruction and death and should not permit this to happen.

Members of Anti-Tobacco Youth Club, delivered a poignant message, highlighting tobacco consumption as the biggest threat to the youth of Pakistan, declaring, “Tobacco not only steals our health but also our future. We must unite to protect our youth from this menace.”

The event celebrated individuals from academia, media, civil society and youth who have dedicated themselves to the cause of creating a tobacco-free Pakistan. This collective effort reinforces the commitment to building a healthier and more resilient nation.

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