tocacco plant Native American Tobaccoo flower, leaves, and buds

tocacco Tobacco is an annual or bi-annual growing 1-3 meters tall with large sticky leaves that contain nicotine. Native to the Americas, tobacco has a long history of use as a shamanic inebriant and stimulant. It is extremely popular and well-known for its addictive potential.

tocacco nicotina Nicotiana tabacum

tocacco Nicotiana rustica leaves. Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%

tocacco cigar A cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Philippines, and the Eastern United States.

tocacco Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide, and in the form of nicotine tartrate it is used in some medicines. In consumption it may be in the form of cigarettes smoking, snuffing, chewing, dipping tobacco, or snus.

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Federal Board of Revenue too thumps the tobacco industry

Even though tobacco products are stated to be cheaper and hence more accessible in Pakistan today than they were 15 years ago, the new taxation measures on cigarettes, spelled out in the budget for the fiscal year 2009-2010 in response to a recommendation from the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health, reflect the government’s intention to control tobacco consumption in the country by using price and taxation policies as a tool.

This is the fifth plausible measure taken by the government in quick succession over the past three weeks, to jolt the tobacco industry and to demonstrate a shift in its policy thinking; the erstwhile focus on gains in the form of revenue generated from tobacco sales can now be seen to have transitioned towards appreciation of the health costs of tobacco use.

Previous measures taken in the direction of tobacco control include withdrawal of the controversial statutory regulatory order on designated smoking areas; imposition of restrictions on promotion of tobacco products; introduction of pictorial health warnings covering no less than 50% of the cigarette packs with effect from January 2010; and more recently, the president’s decision to halt the purchase of custom-made cigarette packets and outers for the presidency from Pakistan Tobacco Company.

Price increases and taxation measures are known to impact patterns of tobacco consumption, particularly in low-income countries like Pakistan. According to the National Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (NAP-NCD), an invaluable publication that appears to have been shelved by the government as it reinvents the wheel by coining a new ‘vision’ for control of NCDs, low-income countries are more likely to respond to increases in prices of tobacco.

Yet, no practical measures in this direction were taken in the past, firstly, because of the government’s failure to challenge the might of the tobacco industry and the clout of retired senior bureaucrats managing the affairs of leading tobacco companies in the country; secondly, due to the existence of weak implementation mechanisms, and thirdly, due to the past governments’ lack of commitment to reversal of the tobacco epidemic, which is one of the greatest public health challenges facing mankind. Assessed against this backdrop, the enhancement of excise duty and sales tax on cigarettes to generate Rs15 billion in revenue is being seen by health experts as a step in the right direction.

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has proposed levying of Rs4.75 per ten cigarettes as federal excise duty on the retail price of a packet selling for up to Rs10; Rs4.75 per 10 cigarettes plus 70 percent over every incremental rupee on retail price of a packet of Rs10-19; and 64 percent federal excise duty on retail price of over Rs19 per pack.

The FBR, which has traditionally been seen as a big supporter of the tobacco industry, and as an organization usually at loggerheads with the Ministry of Health, has finally realized that the tobacco industry is not the biggest tax payer, but the biggest tax-collector, in Pakistan. The development will mark the end of an era, in which the tobacco industry extensively and aggressively used the gimmick of being the biggest taxpayer in the country, to influence the regulators.

According to the NAP-NCD, dependence on revenue generated from tobacco has been a major impediment in the way of tobacco control.

“Researchers have calculated that if there were a sustained and real 10 percent rise in the prices of cigarettes over the average estimated price in each region of the world, 40 million people worldwide would quit smoking and many more who would otherwise have taken up smoking, would be deterred from doing so,” it states.

Tobacco takes over a 100,000 lives annually and a substantial cost is incurred in treating those afflicted by tobacco-related diseases.

Commenting on the new measures, an official working for an anti-tobacco coalition said, “Since a majority of the tobacco consumers in Pakistan represents the low-income group, this measure is expected to influence smokers to kick the habit.

This was a long-awaited intervention; for the first time, we are seeing the regulators and the FBR moving in tandem against the tobacco industry,” he remarked.

The measure is also in conformity with the country’s international obligations under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Article 7 of urges member countries to introduce taxation measures as a means to reducing demand.

Over 70 percent of the cigarette brands in Pakistan are available at very low prices, and hence are easily accessible to the poor.

The country’s cigarette market is the 18th largest in the world. There are 57 tobacco manufacturers currently operating and around 78% of the market share belongs to two corporate giants: Pakistan Tobacco Company, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco, and Phillip Morris International (PMI), which acquired Lakson Tobacco Pakistan, in February 2007.

The marketing activities of these giants are aimed at recruitment of new, young converts in to replace hard-core addicts who die. No other legal substance is as deadly and powerfully addictive as tobacco. Adolescent experimentation with tobacco can easily lead to a lifetime of tobacco dependence.

A cross-sectional survey on a random sample of 632 urban school going children in Islamabad reveals that 28% of the urban adolescents under the ages of 15-18 years currently smoke. Of these, 75% are regular smokers and 58% have been smoking for the last too years; 92% of those who smoke were aware of the hazards of smoking and 78% had never tried to give up. In poor families in developing countries, purchase of tobacco can easily represent up to 10% of total household expenditure.

Tobacco use is killing over 4 million people every year at the global level; of these, approximately 60,000 are from Pakistan, resulting in a substantial cost that far exceeds the revenues gained.

Moreover, the tobacco industry is spending its multi-billion tobacco promotion budgets to capture markets in the most populous countries, which includes Pakistan. The measures being taken by the government are appreciable no doubt; however, at the same time, some thought needs to be given to significant enhancement of spending on tobacco control. According to the WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2008, tobacco tax revenues are more than 4,000 times greater than spending on tobacco control in middle-income countries, and more than 9,000 times greater in lower-income countries. High-income countries collect about 340 times more money in tobacco taxes than they spend on tobacco control. These data provide food for thought.
© Copyright: Thenews

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