National News

‘Tobacco control is a federal subject’

ISLAMABAD: Tobacco control should be a federal subject just like tobacco growing and products are the federal subjects.

Project Director Smoke-Free Cities, Dr. Minhajus Siraj shared on the World No Tobacco Day that the draft of Pakistan’s National Tobacco Control Policy has been finalised.

Dr. Minhaj told, “Though we were hoping to launch the draft on May 31, which is internationally observed as no tobacco day, it could not happen because of continuous engagements of Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza. In the draft, it has been suggested that tobacco control should be a federal subject just like tobacco growing and products are the federal subjects; it also suggests that there is no need for sub-national legislation.”

Unfortunately, we have been following suggestions of international donors due to the absence of national policy.

It is also mentioned in the draft that there should be a tobacco control directorate in the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS).

“It also suggests that there should be two wings of the directorate; one for policymaking and the second for implementation of the law,” he added.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mirza urged masses, especially youth to avoid smoking as it does irreversible damage to health.

“The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly eight million people. More than seven million of these deaths are from direct tobacco use and around 1.2 million are due to non-smokers being exposed to secondhand smoke. More than 80pc of these preventable deaths are among people living in low-and middle-income countries. In Pakistan, tobacco use remains a major public health challenge claiming 160,000 lives annually. Furthermore, 1,200 Pakistani children, between the ages of six to 15 smoke daily, which is alarming,” he said in a statement.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Secretariat of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) are calling countries to prioritise and accelerate tobacco control efforts as part of their responses to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Under the FCTC, an international treaty to which Pakistan is a signatory, the NHS has an obligation to develop strategies to protect the health of Pakistanis from tobacco exposure.”

“Our government under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken major strides in the realm of tobacco control. Our ministry has tabled an ambitious tobacco taxation reforms proposal for consideration in the upcoming budget which seeks Rs24 billion in additional tax revenue, which will be used for saving the lives of the public. I am pleased to share that we successfully implemented a ‘Smoke Free Islamabad Model’ through 85pc compliance of tobacco control laws. All public parks, high rise buildings, food outlets and public transport areas are smoke free in Islamabad. This model has also hence far been replicated in five model districts and has been acknowledged by WHO.”

According to WHO estimates, 44 million children aged 13 to 15 are smoking and many more preteens are likely to join the number. Data from 39 countries shows that around nine percent of children between this age group, are now using e-cigarettes, as tobacco companies deliberately use ‘deadly’ tactics to target children and get them hooked on smoking. Pakistan is among the top 15 countries in the world with widespread tobacco consumption and higher rates of tobacco-related health issues.

World No Tobacco Day is observed all over the world on 31st May, every year to raise awareness related to tobacco use.

June 1, 2020

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