Govt must discourage import of cigarettes, ban e-cigarettes

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  • June 10, 2020
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As the country is producing more tobacco in 2020 than 2019, the government must discourage unbridled import of cigarettes and tobacco. Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB) has estimated increase in the production of flue cured Virginia, dark cured Virginia, dark cured Rustika and white patta. The PTB has projected 6.5 percent increase in output of flue cured Virginia tobacco, 3.7 percent increase in dark cured Virginia and 24 percent growth in production of white patta this year.

The board had already urged the tobacco growers in the country to make deals with local cigarettes manufacturing and tobacco exporting companies well in time to sell tobacco crop. However, the growers are of the opinion that the government should impose heavy taxes on the imported cigarettes and discourage their smuggling as well to promote domestic tobacco crop, its output and timely sale to the local companies.

These measures would not only increase income of 75,000 families whose livelihood depends on cultivation of tobacco, but also lead to further increase in the production of crop, reducing dependence on the imported cigarettes and tobacco. Stakeholders in tobacco sector also think the government should heavily tax the multinational tobacco companies involved in import of cigarettes and tobacco with the aim to promote local tobacco cultivation, its exports and local tobacco companies. Important to note is that the multinational companies shift their profits abroad, whereas, Pakistani companies reinvest their profit within the country.

Increase in Exports of Tobacco

In 2018-19, according to Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB), 30 local companies exported tobacco worth $24.4 million. The country exported about 10.86 million kgs of tobacco in 2018-19. Export of tobacco can also be increased through putting restrictions on the unbridled import of cigarettes in the new budget. In addition to this, keeping in view the slump in economy driven by Covid-19, the government must announce incentives for the local tobacco growers and tobacco companies in the coming budget for 2020-21.

About 22 countries in the world have slapped a ban on the sale and smoking of e-cigarettes while another six countries have placed restrictions on sale and use of these hazardous cigarettes. The countries that have banned e-cigarettes are India, Indonesia, Turkey, Malaysia, Argentina, Brazil, Brunei, Cambodia, Colombia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, Panama, Philippines, Qatar, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Uruguay, Venezuela and Vietnam. Whereas, America, Japan, Norway, Australia, Canada, Norway and Hong Kong have puts curbs on vaping.

Stakeholders in the local tobacco sector have pointed out that the use of E-cigarettes has proved dangerous for the smokers as a result of which several countries have banned their sale. In the coming budget, the government should completely ban import and sale of E-cigarettes.

Another area of concern is the teenagers’ involvement in the smoking which indicates the shopkeepers are encouraging sale of cigarettes to the youngsters, below 18 years in the country. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control seeks strategies to reduce both tobacco demand and supply, and provides a framework for tobacco control measures to be implemented at the national, regional and international levels. This purpose of this policy is to discourage children from smoking initiation and protect them from tobacco-related harm.

Therefore, Pakistan must comply with the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control and employ all resources to curb smoking, undertake research on what works for their populations and develop strategies based on indigenous research results for smoking cessation, especially among youth. Important to note is that the tobacco industry is actively involved to counter tobacco control measures and influence government departments that evolve policies relating to tobacco control. In a recent court hearing, health ministry admitted to being susceptible to the pressures from the tobacco industry lobby groups.

Courtesy :  dailytimes

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