ISLAMABAD: More than 160,000 people are killed by tobacco-caused diseases in Pakistan every year.
According to the latest edition of Tobacco Atlas published earlier this month, while Pakistan has made remarkable progress on tobacco control in recent years, people continue to die and become sick needlessly, and the costs to society from tobacco use continue to mount.
The economic cost of smoking in Pakistan amounts to a startling Rs 143,208 million. This includes direct costs related to healthcare expenditures and indirect costs related to lost productivity due to early mortality and morbidity.
The report states that Pakistan can do more to make the proven tobacco control tools work for its citizens’ well-being.
“Tobacco harms the health, the treasury, and the spirit of Pakistan,” it noted.
The report highlighted that more than 125,000 children (10-14 years old) and 1,473,7000 adults (15+ years) continue to use tobacco each day.
Data gathered in 2015 showed that 41.9% more men smoke in Pakistan than on average in medium human development index (HDI) countries.
Further, even though fewer boys smoke in Pakistan than on average in medium-HDI countries, there are still more than 86,300 boys who smoke cigarettes each day, making it an ongoing and dire public health threat.
Similarly, even though fewer women smoke in Pakistan than on average in medium-HDI countries, there are still more than 2,943,500 women who smoke cigarettes each day.
Further, 16.99% more men and 6.92% more women die in Pakistan than on average in medium-HDI countries.
The Tobacco Atlas also highlighted the effects of tobacco on development and environment.
“Buying tobacco robs families of the resources they may need to rise out of poverty. A smoker in Pakistan would have to spend 8% of their average income (measured by per capita GDP) to purchase 10 of the most popular cigarettes to smoke daily each year,” it stated.
As for the environment, cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded pieces of waste worldwide. It is estimated that 21,432 tonnes of butts and packs wind up as toxic trash in Pakistan each year.
There were 129,878 metric tonnes of tobacco produced in Pakistan in 2014. However, tobacco growing is only a small fraction of agriculture in Pakistan, with only 0.14% of agricultural land devoted to tobacco cultivation, as per the report.
There were 69.43 billion cigarettes produced in Pakistan in 2016 and cigarette imports exceeded cigarette exports in Pakistan in 2016, which hurt the country’s trade balance.
The report upheld, “Complacency in the face of the tobacco epidemic insulates the tobacco industry in Pakistan and ensures that tobacco’s death toll will grow every year. Tobacco control advocates must reach out to other communities and resources to strengthen their efforts and create change.”