Nepal will be marking the World No Tobacco Day today by organising awareness programmes against the negative impacts of tobacco use on human health. The theme for this year is ‘Raise taxes on tobacco’.
On the occasion, World Health Organisation, Regional Office for South-East Asia, New Delhi, has urged the countries ‘to raise taxes on tobacco to decrease tobacco use especially among the youth’. According to WHO, countries in South-East Asia Region, which also includes Nepal, are home to 25 per cent of the world’s smoking and 90 per cent of the world’s smokeless tobacco users. Prevalence of tobacco use is increasing among youth. Nearly 15 per cent of students aged 13-15 years use some form of tobacco and majority of them use smokeless tobacco product in the region.
SubmitHigher taxes on tobacco products are proven to reduce the number of tobacco users, especially the youth, resulting in lives saved and healthier communities. In South-East Asia Region, more than 1.3 million people die each year from tobacco-related deaths; a decrease in tobacco consumption that follows a higher tax and price will reduce future tobacco-related deaths and illnesses. “Research shows that higher taxes are especially effective in reducing tobacco use among lower-income groups and in preventing young people from starting to use tobacco” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.
Price policies involving taxation have been a major instrument for tobacco control in many countries of the region. Total tax share in retail price of cigarette range from 35 per cent in Timor-Leste to 74 per cent in Sri Lanka. Tax share in retail price of cigarettes has increased between 2009 and 2013 in countries such as Bangladesh from 67 per cent to 71 per cent; Maldives 30 per cent to 49 per cent; Nepal 25 per cent to 35 per cent; Sri Lanka 72 per cent to 74 per cent; and Thailand 64 per cent to 70 per cent. According to the Nepal Demographic and Health Survey, 2011, a major concern for the government of Nepal is the effect of secondhand smoke (SHS) on the health of children and neonates. The purpose of the Tobacco Related Products (Control and Regulation) Act of 2011 is to control tobacco and tobacco-related product use and distribution. SHS is a risk factor for children and adults who do not smoke. Pregnant women who are exposed to SHS have a higher risk of giving birth to a low birth weight baby.
Forty percent of households are exposed daily to SHS, and rural households (42 per cent) are more likely to be exposed than urban households (26 percent). Tobacco use is more common among Nepali men than women (52 per cent compared with 13 per cent). Thirty percent of men smoke cigarettes, while 38 percent consume other forms of tobacco.
The other forms of tobacco include smokeless tobacco, mainly the chewing tobacco locally known as khaini or gutkha. Among women, 9 per cent smoke cigarettes and 6 per cent consume other forms of tobacco. According to Nepal Cancer Relief Society, tobacco products are the major risk factor of cancer and other non-communicable diseases. In Nepal, every year around 16,000 people die of tobacco related diseases and 90 per cent of them die of lung cancer.