Women smokers cause Rs615bn health burden annually

The rise in number of women and child smokers is alarming, reports Capital Calling, a network of academic researchers and professionals. It endorsed the increase in taxes on cigarettes and deplored the lobbying being made by multinational companies to reduce taxes.

The network reports that about seven percent of women smoke, causing a health burden of over Rs615 billion annually to the national exchequer. The government jacked up Federal Excise Duty (FED) on cigarettes in February to discourage the sale of cigarettes, smokers, and boost its revenue which anti-tobacco activists and the civil society appreciated, urging the government to further increase it.

The Capital Calling reports that studies have shown that the highest proportion of female smokers in Pakistan resides in rural areas (10%) and are less educated (12%). It reports that It reports that the highest proportion of female smokers in Pakistan resides in rural areas (10%) and are less educated (12%). 19.5 percent of women smokers age from 25 to 29 years. Sindh has 34% of women smokers. 58.5 percent of women smokers lives in rural areas and 71.7 percent are illiterate. 33.1 percent are very poor and 78.6 percent are unemployed. 94.5 percent of women smokers are married or divorced. 52.7 percent of women smokers have gone through domestic violence at a stage.

Likewise, more than 1200 children start smoking in Pakistan every day and there are at least 20 million under-aged or minor smokers in the country, where the legal age of smoking is 18 years.
Smoking exposes women and children to numerous health risks, including lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and respiratory infections. These conditions significantly diminish the quality of life and can lead to premature death.

A recent study titled, “Higher tobacco tax helps bring down sale of cigarettes in Pakistan,”  says the government is expecting to collect around 200 billion rupees in taxes from the tobacco industry this year after the tax hike. In the last fiscal year, the tax collection from the tobacco industry was recorded 148 billion rupees.

Out of 31 million adult tobacco users in Pakistan, one in every ninety-four smokers is forced to quit smoking due to increase in cigarettes prices with higher tax and spend the savings to fulfil other needs like food, education and paying the utilities, reveals a research study released on Sunday.

It claimed quoting the ground surveys in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Peshawar that smokers were forced to quit smoking after a significant raise in FED ranging from 146 percent to 154 percent in February this year.

More than 31 million Pakistani adults (15+) or about 19.7 percent of the total adults use some form of tobacco which is one of the highest in the world.

Meanwhile, multinational tobacco companies in Pakistan are trying to mislead the government that there is a causal relationship between the rise in taxes and illicit trade of cigarettes. Numerous research studies have proven that share of illicit cigarettes was not more than 18 percent and that too included smuggling from Afghanistan and Iran. The Capital Calling states that possibility of illicit trade has died down after implementation of track and trace system.

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