By Hamid Khan Wazir
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Mirza Nasir Ud Din Mashhood Ahmad, the Special Secretary at the Federal Ministry of National Health, Services, Regulations, and Coordination (NHSR&C), has expressed concerns that 1,200 children beginning smoking daily and 170,000 people dying due to tobacco–induced diseases every year.
Speaking at an event “Independence from tobacco” organized by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) to celebrate International Youth Day 2022 in Islamabad, the special secretary stated that the Tobacco Control Cell at the Ministry is active and we encourage parliamentarians, civil society, academia and media to collaborate with us in countering the sales and promotion of emerging tobacco products to children and youth.
The Speakers at the event stressed the need on banning novel tobacco products and highlighted that these products are biggest threats for younger generations as tobacco industry is finding new ways of manipulating the youth.
Dr. Shazia Sobia Aslam Soomro, Parliamentary Secretary, Federal Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination (NHSR&C) said Pakistan is lucky to have a majority of population in youth; 61 million of youngsters are an asset for our country and the government realizes that. We will not let any industry deliberately target our youth to put their future in jeopardy.
Dr. Shazia appreciated SPARC for educating the youth on malicious practices and harmful products and also giving youth a platform to share their stories with policymakers. She also assured to raise voice in parliament for legislation regarding novel products.
Malik Imran Ahmed, Country Head, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK), mentioned that in order to attract youth, tobacco industry is engaging youth icons such as famous musicians, actors and models for paid social media content. The extensive online campaigns on almost all social media platforms are also a proof that these products are targeted at youth. Imran added that if these attempts of tobacco industry to gain more buyers are not kept in check through proper mechanisms, they will grow more powerful and keep being the cause of deaths and diseases in the Country.
Dr. Ziauddin Islam, Country Lead Vital Strategies, / Former Technical Head/Director, Tobacco Control Cell, Ministry of NHSR&C/ Former Technical focal Person of Govt. of Pakistan for WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) mentioned that in Pakistan there’s no federal or provincial legislation regarding novel products i.e. nicotine pouches, e-cigarettes and vapes. Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Ordinance 2002 provides key guidelines in controlling children’s access to traditional tobacco products. Such legislation is required for novel products as well.
Anees Jillani Member, Board of Director SPARC, stated that since 1992 SPARC is working for the dismal plight of the children across the country through research, awareness raising, and improved policy making and implementation. International Youth Day 2022’s theme “Intergenerational Solidarity”, calls for collaboration between children and adults to put strong barrier to the malicious campaigns of tobacco industry. SPARC has initiated “Anti-Tobacco Youth Clubs” campaign with the vision of creating a tobacco-free Pakistan. Our aim is to encourage our children to come forward and play a part today and in future as well.