Tobacco Farming and Illness Induced Poverty in Pakistan
Keywords:Tobacco, Health cost, Illness, Poverty, policy
Tobacco has been projected for its economic prosperity in Pakistan and many other developing countries while the opportunity cost of domestic labor, health issues and associated health cost related with tobacco farming are often overlooked. Various health conditions associated with tobacco farming result in catastrophic health expenditures which not only increase the chances of poverty head counts but also deepens it further. Taking into account the opportunity cost of domestic labor and health cost associated with tobacco induced illnesses obscure the tobacco prosperity rhetoric. This study examined effect of incremental health cost associated with tobacco farming on poverty head counts and severity. Using survey data from the tobacco producing districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, this study found that tobacco farmers experienced higher proportion of sever health hazards and illnesses like CVD and respiratory issues. The severe nature of ailments caused them higher share of out of pocket expenditures as compared to non-tobacco farmers and general population. Increase in health expenditures not only increased their poverty head counts by four and half percent but also severity of poverty worsened further by 8 percentage points using the Cost of Basic Needs (CBN) approach for measuring poverty. This study concludes that it is not only tobacco consumption associated with various health conditions but also tobacco farming. It is recommended that health cost associated with tobacco farming be considered both in setting up of minimum indicative prices for tobacco and consideration of health cost can be used as a tool against prosperity rhetoric which is used to block tobacco control policy.
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