Economic burden of tobacco use in Pakistan

Tob Control. 2022 Dec 15:tc-2022-057726. doi: 10.1136/tc-2022-057726. Online ahead of print.


Background: The lack of reliable tobacco healthcare and economic cost estimates leaves the tobacco industry undertaxed and thriving in Pakistan and makes the country as one of the top tobacco-consuming nations. To facilitate effective tobacco tax policymaking, this study estimates the economic cost of smoking-attributable diseases and deaths in Pakistan.

Methods: A nationally representative sample survey of 13 000 households was administered to gather the data required to estimate different cost components of smoking-attributable diseases through the prevalence-based approach.

Findings: The total smoking-attributable economic cost of all diseases and deaths in Pakistan in the year 2018-2019 for persons aged 35 years or older is 615.07 billion ($3.85 billion). Similarly, three major diseases, namely cancer, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease, along with associated deaths, cost the nation PKR437.8 billion ($2.7 billion) of which 77% is the indirect cost. The three major diseases make 71% of the total estimated cost, nearly two-thirds of which is borne by rural residents, nine-tenth by males and more than four-fifths by the citizens in the 35-64 years age group.

Conclusion: The total annual economic costs of all smoking-attributable diseases and deaths and those of the three major diseases equal 1.6% and 1.15% of Pakistan's gross domestic product, respectively. The tax contribution of tobacco sector is merely 20% of the total estimated cost. The finding of huge economic and health costs of smoking makes a convincing case for policymakers to realise the true value of the industry's contribution and raise tobacco taxes to the level of full cost recovery.

Keywords: economics; low/middle income country; tobacco industry.