ISLAMABAD: Parliamentary Secretary of National Health Services (NHS) Dr Nausheen Hamid has said that tobacco causes the death of around 160,100 Pakistanis every year and her ministry was taking demand and supply reduction measures to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use in the country as about 24 million Pakistanis are using tobacco in multiple forms.
She was addressing the gathering of a national workshop on the tobacco industry’s interference here on Tuesday.
As a signatory to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), Pakistan has taken numerous measures to protect public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry. The youth of Pakistan is being targeted by the tobacco industry so that “replacement smokers” could be recruited. Demand and supply reduction measures are being taken by the government to address this major health issue.
Dr Nausheen said that Pakistan enhanced the size of the Pictorial Health Warning (PHW) on cigarette packs as part of demand reduction measures and is in the process of increasing the PHW to cover 60 per cent of the pack. “This change will be implemented from June 1, 2019. We are also coordinating with the Ministry of Finance to increase taxes on tobacco products, especially cigarettes,” she revealed.
She said that the Ministry of Health sensitised health departments on Article 5.3 of the FCTC, consultative workshops were conducted at the provincial level in collaboration with World Health Organisation (WHO) and the tobacco industry has been ousted from all committees formed for tobacco control.
Speaking on the occasion, WHO Pakistan Representative Dr Ni’ma Saeed Abid said that the prevalence of tobacco use in Pakistan is very high, 31.8 per cent among men and 5.8 per cent among women.
He emphasised on introducing plain packaging on cigarette packs in Pakistan and the implementation of WHO Best Buys to reduce tobacco use.
Tobacco Control Cell (TCC) Project Manager Muhammad Javed gave a detailed presentation on the measures taken to control the tobacco epidemic in Pakistan.
He informed that the TCC had banned the sale of loose cigarettes sticks, import of tobacco and non-tobacco sheesha, tobacco advertisements in print, electronic and outdoor media, cigarette packs having less than 20 cigarettes, illegalised designated smoking areas, in addition to declaring public places 100 per cent smoke-free and raising awareness among masses.
Speaking on the occasion, Malik Tanveer from Federal Board of Revenue (FBR said the Inland Revenue Enforcement Network (IREN) has conducted about 600 raids on illicit cigarettes and about 1 billion illicit cigarette sticks have been seized.
WHO EMRO Office Advisor Dr Fatima Elawa, American University of Beirut Dr Ghazi Zaatari, Dr Roberto from WHO and Shahzad Alam Khan also spoke on the occasion.