ISLAMABAD           -        Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on National Health Services (NHS) Dr. Zafar Mirza on Sunday said that the ministry in coordination with the provinces has developed a draft national policy to sustain the tobacco control efforts in Pakistan.

A statement released by the ministry said that World No Tobacco Day is being observed in Pakistan as elsewhere in the world on 31st May 2020 to highlight the hazards associated with the use of tobacco and spotlight efforts being made by governments, civil society and individuals across the globe to safeguard the health of the people through preventive, persuasive and punitive measures against the use of tobacco. The theme for World No Tobacco Day 2020 is “Protecting youth from industry manipulation and preventing them from tobacco and nicotine use.”

The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 8 million people globally. More than 7 million of these deaths are from direct tobacco use and around 1.2 million are due to non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. More than 80 per cent of these preventable deaths will be among people living in lowand middleincome 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 sixand 15 years start smoking daily which is alarming.

WHO and the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are calling countries to prioritize and accelerate tobacco control efforts as part of their responses to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), an international treaty to which Pakistan is a signatory, the Federal Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (MNHSRC) 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.  Federal Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination along with the provinces have developed a draft national policy to sustain the tobacco control efforts in Pakistan.

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 public. We have under SRO 71 (I) /2020 of Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non Smoker’s Health Ordinance 2002, banned all forms of tobacco advertising, promotions & sponsorship and related products. The government has enforced graphic health warning 60 percent space of cigarettes packs and outers and banned sale of cigarettes to under 18 years.

I am pleased to share that we successfully implemented a “Smoke Free Islamabad Model” through 85 percent compliance of tobacco control laws. All public parks, high-rise buildings, food outlets and public transport are smoke free in Islamabad. This model has also hence far been replicated in five model districts. Our Smoke Free Model has been acknowledged by the World Health Organization.

We will continue to strive to raise taxes, enhance size of graphic health warnings and promote a smoke free society by providing a counter-marketing campaign, awareness against nicotine use and empower young people to engage in the fight against tobacco. I call upon every citizen of Pakistan to contribute to this noble cause to safeguard the health and well-being of our present and future generations.