Measures afoot to curb tobacco use in country: Parliamentary Secretary

ISLAMABAD: Parliamentary Secretary of National Health Services Dr Nausheen Hamid on Tuesday said the health ministry was taking demand and supply reduction measures to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use in the country.

“Tobacco use is a cause of death of around 160, 100 Pakistanis every year, ” she said while addressing the gathering of National Workshop on Tobacco Industry Interference in Islamabad.

Nausheen Hamid said as a signatory to Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), Pakistan took numerous measures to protect public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.

She said that about 24 million adults currently used tobacco in any form in Pakistan. The youth of Pakistan were being targeted by the tobacco industry so that “replacement smokers” could be recruited, she said.

The parliamentary secretary said to address this major health issue, the health ministry took demand and supply reduction measures. As demand reduction measures, Pakistan enhanced size of Pictorial Health Warning (PHW) on cigarette packs, she added.

“We are in process of notifying Pictorial Health Warning of 60% size, which will be implemented from June 1, 2019. We are coordinating with the Ministry of Finance to increase taxes on tobacco products especially cigarettes, ” she said.

The secretary further said that the health ministry sensitized the health departments on Article 5. 3 of FCTC. Consultative workshops were conducted at provincial level in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), she maintained.

“Tobacco industry has been ousted from all the committees formed for tobacco control, ” she said.

Speaking on the occasion, WHO Representative Pakistan Dr Ni’ma Saeed Abid said that the prevalence of tobacco product use in Pakistan was very high (19. 1%) particularly among men (31. 8%) and women (5. 8 %). Youth and women are the prime target of tobacco industry, he said.

Ni’ma Saeed emphasized on introducing plain packaging on cigarette packs in Pakistan. He suggested to implement WHO Best Buys to reduce tobacco use.

Project Manager Tobacco Control Cell Mohammad Javed gave a detailed presentation on measures taken to control tobacco epidemic in Pakistan. He informed that Tobacco Control Cell (TCC) banned sale of loose cigarettes sticks, banned import of tobacco and non-tobacco sheesha and related substances, banned tobacco advertisement in print, electronic and outdoor media, banned cigarette packs having less than 20 cigarettes, illegalised designated smoking areas / smoking rooms, declared public places 100% smoke-free, raised awareness among masses, and built capacity of authorized persons to support enforcement.

Speaking on the occasion, Malik Tanveer from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) said the Inland Revenue Enforcement Network had conducted about 600 raids on illicit cigarettes and about one billion illicit cigarette sticks were seized.

Dr. Fatima Elawa, Advisor, WHO EMRO Office, Dr. Ghazi Zaatari, American University of Beirut, Dr. Roberto from WHO and Shahzad Alam Khan also spoke on the occasion.