Speakers for effective smoking cessation services, utilizing THR for a smoke-free Pakistan

PESHAWAR:Pakistan needs to provide effective and affordable smoking cessation services and make tobacco harm reduction (THR) part of the national tobacco control policy to end or reduce combustible smoking prevalence in Pakistan.

It was noted at a consultation meeting on the current situation and role of the THR in ending of combustible smoking from Pakistan. The consultation was organized by Alternative Research Initiative (ARI) here Wednesday.

The participants were informed that Pakistan was facing a heavy burden of diseases because of combustible smoking, with nearly 29 million users of tobacco in the country. Some estimates say the number of tobacco users has reached 31 million.

The total economic cost of smoking in Pakistan was Rs 615.07 billion in 2019, equal to 1.6 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The meeting was told that tobacco harm reduction works as almost all of the smoking-related risk arises from the smoke: the particles of tar and toxic gases that are inhaled from burning tobacco. If smokers can find satisfactory alternatives to cigarettes that do not involve combustion but do provide nicotine, then they would avoid almost all of the disease risk.

The speakers regretted that Pakistan had no national tobacco control policy and concerns of the smokers had been ignored in the tobacco control efforts. Smokers in Pakistan do not consult medical practitioners when it comes to quitting smoking. If they decide to give up smoking, they don’t know where they should seek assistance the speakers said adding that due to lack of effective cessation services, less than three per cent of the smokers successfully quit smoking in a year across Pakistan.

They maintained that a smoke-free Pakistan is possible to achieve before 2030. For this, the government should need to ensure provision of the effective, accessible and affordable cessation services; make tobacco harm reduction part of the national tobacco control policy. They called for sensibly regulating innovative tobacco harm products in Pakistan. They also called for engaging health practitioners in cessation efforts and making smokers part of the tobacco control efforts to achieve a smoke-free future.

The ARI is working on ending combustible smoking in a generation. It has established Pakistan Alliance for Nicotine and Tobacco Harm Reduction (PANTHR), while remaining committed to and supporting tobacco control efforts in Pakistan, especially Article 14 of FCTC, PANTHR serves as a platform for advocating and promoting all innovative solutions for ending smoking whether counseling, NRTs, or harm reduction.