A Tribune Express Story.

The federal ombudsman office’s orders to slap higher taxes on cigarette sales as a means to enforce the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is tractable. Its attempt to make tobacco completely inaccessible, however, is not. A complete ban would negatively impact government tax revenue and the economy as tobacco sales estimably contribute more to Pakistan’s GDP (about 4.5 per cent) than what beer sales contribute to America’s GDP (roughly 1.5 per cent in 2014), according to some reports. A total ban – even though it would be beneficial to the health sector and the economy overall in the long-term – is perhaps unjust but the ombudsman’s initiative to control counterfeit and smuggled product sales is a step in the right direction.

Allegations of interference by the tobacco industry in price reductions should be investigated instead of being taken lightly as it is unethical for the corporate sector to influence government orders. This was done in the way of the Ministries of National Health Services basing its decision to reduce cigarette taxes to Rs16 per a 20-cigarette pack on data provided by the tobacco industry itself. This is similar to the dairy industry promoting its milk campaign two decades ago with recent research elucidating that cow’s milk may not be so essential to the human diet.

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