It is a well-known fact that if one can afford to indulge in something one craves for one will certainly go for it no matter what the habit. This is certainly true in the case of cigarettes for as long as young people can afford it the chances of them quitting it is quite unlikely.
The affordability factor is found to be the main facilitator for smoking, especially at a younger age, and this could be countered by increasing taxes on tobacco-related products including cigarettes.
This has been revealed in a research study, “Switch, Reduce or Quit: How do smokers respond to tobacco tax increases in Pakistan,” recently carried out by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE).
The study found that the initiation age for tobacco use is as early as six years and young people in general and adolescents, in particular, are the most vulnerable to initiate tobacco use.
The probability of starting using tobacco fades as people reach their forties, it said.
It said that affordability that leads much younger age group to start smoking could be cut by increasing taxes on tobacco-related products that could also help the government raise revenue.
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths globally, and consequently, various programmes and interventionist policies have been suggested and implemented to curb tobacco use and reduce cigarette consumption.
Among these, tobacco taxation is the most effective, it said, adding that evidence suggests that significant increases in cigarette taxes are effective in reducing smoking initiation by non-smokers and cigarette consumption of smokers
It said the price-increase strategy – executed through taxation – effectively reduces the overall prevalence of smoking.
Such evidence provides strong encouragement to public health experts worldwide, including those in Pakistan, to push their respective governments to use tax policy as a tool in the fight against tobacco consumption and its associated harms.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2021.