Save our children – Increase Tobacco Tax: Anti tobacco activists raise awareness through sports

Islamabad: Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) organized an Anti-Tobacco Warriors Cricket Cup 2021 in a bid to raise awareness against tobacco use among children at Diamond Cricket Ground.

During the closing ceremony, Farukh Habib Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting told the media that he is very intrigued with the efforts of Anti-Tobacco activists in fighting against the tobacco peril. They are striving hard for reducing tobacco consumption among teens contrary to the tobacco industry which is leading our generation towards death Govt. is in full harmony and appreciates initiates of promoting sport-related activities, he mentioned.

He further said that the taxes on tobacco products should increase over time to continue to have the intended effect of encouraging quitting among current smokers, and preventing vulnerable populations, especially youth, from starting to use these products and for a healthy Pakistan.

Addressing the participants, Malik Imran Ahmad, Country head Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) said that that increasing the tobacco tax is a health win situation for Pakistan. It is the most effective way to reduce smoking and other tobacco use, especially among youth.

He mentioned that the economic cost of smoking in Pakistan is Rs 615.07 billion (US$3.85 billion), equal to 1.6% of Pakistan’s GDP.6 In 2019, the economic cost of smoking was about five times greater than the revenue from the tobacco industry. WHO recommended raising taxes on cigarettes by 30% to make them unaffordable for youth. He also stressed that the government must implement a health levy on cigarettes from the coming fiscal year to discourage smoking, boost revenues.
Highlighting the role of civil society in tobacco control, Mr. Khalil Ahmed, Program Manager, SPARC said that the biggest role played by SPARC is the acceptance of tobacco consumption as a child rights issue.

He further added Smoking-related illnesses remain the leading cause of preventable death. In Pakistan tobacco kills more than 170,000 yearly, and daily 5000 people are admitted to hospitals. In Pakistan, 1200 children between ages 6 and 15 begin smoking every day. The tobacco industry designs its approaches to attract a new generation of tobacco users, from product design to marketing campaigns aimed at replacing the millions of people who die each year from tobacco-attributable diseases with new consumers. We can’t let them treat our children as replacement customers.
Ch. Sanaullah Ghuman, General Secretary, Pakistan National Heart Association stated that countering tobacco industry’s disinformation campaign is need of the hour. Hike in prices is required to save lives, along with strict implementation of laws regarding graphic health warnings, promotion and advertising bans and smoke free places.