Today, the world, including Pakistan, is observing No Tobacco Day, aimed at raising awareness about the health risks associated with tobacco use. In Pakistan alone, there are currently over 290,000 smokers who are 15 years old or older, with a staggering 1.07 billion cigarettes consumed by them. On average, a smoker in the country consumes thirteen cigarettes per day.
Unfortunately, the enforcement of anti-smoking laws in Pakistan remains weak, leading to approximately thirty percent of smokers purchasing open cigarettes, despite their sale being legally prohibited.
Health experts emphasize that smoking has detrimental effects on the human body, contributing to diseases such as mouth and lung cancer, heart disease, brain strokes, and diabetes. To reduce smoking rates in Pakistan, experts suggest implementing not only increased prices on tobacco products but also raising awareness about the disadvantages of smoking.
Liaqat Yousafzai, a renowned tobacco grower and entrepreneur from the Swabi district, highlighted that while there are harms associated with tobacco use, there are also benefits. Tobacco serves various purposes beyond cigarette consumption and is cultivated in five districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), including Swabi, Buner, Charsadda, Mardan, and Mansehra. In terms of production, tobacco is a major crop in KP, and the Pakistan Tobacco Board collects an annual tobacco tax of Rs 157 billions from all over the country.
Each year, 100 million kilograms of tobacco are used in cigarettes within Pakistan, with 80 million kilograms used in domestic cigarettes and 20 million kilograms used in foreign cigarettes.
While cigarette consumption is higher in Punjab compared to KP, the number of people affected by tobacco-related issues is still significant. Liaquat Yousafzai stressed that while tobacco has harmful aspects, it is also used in various medicinal treatments, offering health benefits. Additionally, tobacco-based sprays are used in some countries as alternatives to organic sprays for crop protection against diseases.
Unfortunately, this year’s tobacco crop production in Kp has been negatively impacted by heavy rains and hailstorms, leading to decreased yields. In light of these challenges, farmers have requested assistance from the KP government and the Pakistan Tobacco Board to recover their losses by providing a relief package.
Liaquat Ali further emphasized that he and all farmers in KP are against the misuse of tobacco and believe that its benefits should be harnessed. The farmers have been actively engaged in efforts to prevent the negative use of tobacco, but collective action from all stakeholders is necessary to address this issue effectively.