There is no denying the fact that tobacco consumption in any form, is detrimental to health. It causes fatal conditions of which cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary disease are most notable. 21% of the adult population globally are smokers, of which 80% live in low and middle income countries. When we include the damage done to second hand smokers the situation becomes grimmer. What is further concerning is the fact that 25 million youngsters aged 13-15 globally are smokers. Tobacco use takes the life of half of all lifetime users. It is a huge blow to the future of global public health. In addition to health costs, tobacco consumption bankrupts the treasury too. Smoking is estimated to cause about 1.4 trillion USD in economic damage each year (CTFK). This tosses a nation decades back in terms of growth and development especially in the case of developing countries.
The situation naturally becomes worse in low and middle-income countries where it grows into an added burden on the already dismal public health situation. In Pakistan, 23.6 million which makes 19.1% of the adult population uses tobacco in any form. Of these 23.6 million, 15.6 million are smokers and 9.6 million use smokeless tobacco products such as chaliya, Ghutka, Naswar etc . Among the youth (age 13-15), 10.7% are tobacco users. 39% of households are exposed daily to Secondhand tobacco smoke. Nearly 160, 100 Pakistanis die annually due to smoking related causes (TCC website link). Tobacco use is the leading causes of deaths due to non-communicable diseases. As a result, these health hazards inflate the healthcare costs at both the individual and government levels. Economic cost of smoking in Pakistan amounts to an estimated 143208 million rupees annually (Tobacco Atlas factsheet link).
Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and its compliance in Pakistan
World Health Organization passed a Framework convention on tobacco control (FCTC) in 2003, Pakistan became a signatory in 2005. Under this convention the signatories are bound to implement the following measures; Pakistan’s compliance is highlighted in the right column.
|Topic||Compliance status in Pakistan|
|Price and Tax Measures (Demand Reduction)||Partially Implemented|
|Protection from smoke (Passive smoking)||Implemented|
|Regulate the content of tobacco packs||Not Implemented|
|Regulate disclosure of products in a pack||Not Implemented|
|Regulate packaging and labeling of tobacco packs||Implemented|
|Comprehensive ban of Tobacco, Advertisement, Promotion and sponsorship (TAPS)||Partially Implemented|
|Offer help to end addiction||Not Implemented|
|Control illicit trade||Partially Implemented|
|Ban sales to/by minors.||Implemented|
HDF journey and achievements
Human Development Foundation advocates for a healthy habitat. Under its sustainable environment program, HDF has conducted various tree plantation drives, clean-up drives and renewable energy projects. In 2018 HDF took a new initiative of starting an advocacy campaign to end tobacco consumption in Pakistan with the aim of ensuring a clean environment and a healthy lifestyle among the masses. The goal of this campaign is to create synergies among different stakeholders for sustainable anti-tobacco policy reforms aimed at protecting the youth of the country.
- HDF sensitized the Ministry of Health for drafting the “Sin Tax/Health Levy” on tobacco products for submission before National Assembly. As a result, the government committed to a health levy of Rs. 10/pack on cigarettes announced in the budget for FY2019-20.
- Multiple trainings and awareness sessions with journalists and media persons resulted in the adoption of a more effective taxation structure for tobacco control. In its Fiscal Budget for 2019-2020, the government of Pakistan announced the removal of the third tier of low taxes in tobacco taxation structure.
- HDF, in collaboration with Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH), Tobacco Control Cell and Verso Consulting (Pvt) Ltd under the technical guidance of FCTC Knowledge Hub, carried out a research study titled “Study to Assess the Volume of Illicit Cigarette Brands in Pakistan” and found that the total volume of trade of illicit cigarette brands is 10%, contrary to the claim of tobacco industry that it constitutes a major chunk. (link to the online version of the study will be provided here)
Pakistan Civil Society Alliance (PCSA) for Tobacco Control: Supporting the global campaign to reduce the use of tobacco and save lives, HDF created PCSA for tobacco control in all four provinces of Pakistan. PCSA consists of civil society organizations, media, academia, health care industry and youth. The main objectives of PCSA are;
- Raising awareness on tobacco control laws and advocate for the effective enforcement of these laws
- Ensuring that the organizations aboard have smoke-free offices while advocating for smoke-free public spaces and strengthen the policing of violations in light of anti-tobacco laws in their respective regions
- Understanding and sharing good practices learned from success stories across the world and acting as advocates to the policymakers for the adoption of these good practices
(Links to the news of all four launches will be provided)
Way Forward of the campaign
Moving forward, HDF aims to achieve the following objectives through its continuous efforts;
- Increase the taxes up to 70% of the retail price of tobacco products
- Plain packaging with an enhanced graphic health warning on all tobacco products to reduce brand appeal
- Advocacy for regularization of smokeless tobacco products
- Policing of enforcement of tobacco control laws through behavior change communication.
- Mass awareness on health hazards of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) & the rising E-cigarette epidemic.