Tobacco worsens poverty and damages health : Saira Afzal Tarar

May 31, 2017

 Islamabad, 31-03-2017: Minister, National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar, said that tobacco use has devastating health consequences as it is a major barrier to development. Tobacco worsens poverty, damages health, and causes devastating social, economic, and environmental harms to the Pakistani community and the rest of the world as well. She was speaking to gathering of seminar conducted by Ministry of NHSRC and WHO to commemorate World No Tobacco Day, 2017.


She told that World No Tobacco Day, 2017 campaign focuses on development. There is a link between use of tobacco products, tobacco control and sustainable development. Globally each year, more than 7 million people die from tobacco use. This figure includes the 900,000 that die from exposure to second hand smoke. Over 80% of these deaths occur in low- or middle-income countries.


Minister said that on top of health costs, country’s economy suffers when sick or dying smokers cannot work, and because smoking prevalence is much higher among men with low education and low income. In many ways, tobacco and poverty are part of a vicious cycle that deals a double blow to poor people. Money spent on tobacco means less money for necessities such as food, health care, shelter, and education, while diseases from tobacco cause the poor untold suffering and drive them deeper into poverty when bread winners fall sick or die early.


She assured that Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination is fully committed with FCTC agreement to safeguard the health of citizen of Pakistan from deadly diseases caused by tobacco. It is mandatory to have participation from provincial and local governments, public, media and all stakeholders in national & subnational efforts of tobacco control to enforce and implement strategies, plans and achieve goals that prioritize action on tobacco control.


Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Mohammad Assai, WHO Representative Pakistan said that in Pakistan, 23.9 million adults (31.8% of men, 5.8% of women) currently use tobacco in any form. Among the youth (13-15 years of age), 13.3 % boys and 6.6 % girls are current tobacco users. At global level each year, more than 7 million people die from tobacco use. He further said that over 80% of these deaths due to tobacco use occur in low- or middle-income countries. These countries bear almost 40% of the global economic cost of smoking from health expenditures (we developing countries are paying 40% cost of smoking!!!)”


Director (TCC) made a detailed presentation on tobacco control in Pakistan. He told that tobacco is a cause of death of around 108,800 Pakistanis every year. Almost 24 million adults currently use tobacco in any form. That accounts for 15.6 million adults who currently smoke tobacco, including 3.7 million adults using water pipes, hookah or shisha, and another 9.6 million adults who use smokeless tobacco. He said that almost 15 out of 17 SDGs are linked to tobacco control. He highlighted the measures taken by Tobacco Control Cell to control the epidemic of tobacco use.


Mr. Shahzad Alam Khan, National Professional Officer, WHO said that the use of tobacco is a real public health issue. Women and youth are the prime targets of the Tobacco industry. He lauded the steps taken by the Ministry of National Health Services towards tobacco control. However, he underlined the need to raise the Federal Excise Duty to the tune of 70 % of the retail price. “A 10 % increase in tobacco taxation reduces the tobacco consumption by around 8 % in the low income countries,” he remarked. He also highlighted the importance of uniform tobacco taxation and an efficient tax administration system. He said it is high time that Pakistan should implement tracking and tracing system which would be a critical step to control illicit tobacco trade.