Even though Pakistan had signed the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) — under which it pledged to stand politically committed to containing tobacco consumption in the country — in 2004, the state’s compliance remained quite slow. However, in a significant development, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has imposed a complete ban on display of cigarettes at points of sale. The imposition of this ban was much needed, and it is a step forward in the right direction.

The officials maintain that Pakistan has implemented most of the FCTC recommendations. They, perhaps, forget that passing an order or imposing a ban is one thing and implementing it is quite another. It is the lack of implementation of such bans that we see the shopkeepers often the times ignore such directives. For instance, we see many tobacco shops selling cigarettes and other smoking products to kids who have yet to reach eighteen years of age. Nevertheless, today smoking is one significant issue that Pakistan needs to control on an urgent basis.

According to Pakistan Civil Society Alliance for Tobacco Control’s 2019 estimates, at least 20 per cent of the Pakistani population consumes tobacco in one form or another. No wonder that the country is among the top 15 countries in the world with higher rates of tobacco-related health issues. Besides, a 2019 report compiled by the Pakistan Pediatric Association (PPA) on smoking practices in Pakistan reveals that an estimated 1,000 to 1,200 schoolchildren between six and 16 years of age are taking up smoking every day in Pakistan.

The facts and figures above stated are a reminder that despite giving ourselves a pat on our back, we need to do more in this regard. Indeed, Pakistan is finally catching up to global legal standards. But the loopholes in our law are making the whole exercise unfruitful.