The Anti-Tobacco Law is being blatantly violated and the health ministry has asked all the federal ministries to strictly ensure the execution of the tobacco control law, in their offices and their attached organisations.

The Ombudsman’s office taking notice of smoking and use of Paan and Naswaar in federal government offices, even after office timings, had directed the ministry to issue strict order to immediately. According to Section 5 of the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Health Ordinance 2002, smoking and use of tobacco in other forms, is strictly prohibited in public and private offices. Moreover, it is against the law to establish smoking areas in any office. According to the law, officers in BPS-20 and above and heads of establishments are also designated as authorised persons to take action against the violators in places under their jurisdiction.

There are currently 23.9 million adults who use tobacco in Pakistan. Out of these, 15.6 million smoke tobacco and 9.6 million use smokeless tobacco products. Just by ‘stating’ that smoking in public places is not allowed, will not solve the problem. Violators need to be punished. The law proposes various punishments or fines depending upon the type and severity of the violation that go up to Rs 100,000. Despite smoking in public places and on public transport being a punishable offence, transporters and passengers alike violate the law indiscriminately. Similarly, smokers are seen openly violating the law in a majority of the restaurants.

For this law to actually be taken seriously, one has to make sure that a long-term plan is in action, one that ensures that there is awareness, persistence and an adamant form of checking if the law is actually being implemented or not. It is only a lack of motivation that the law has not been enforced, nothing else. If there is enforcement, people will obey the law. Sheesha was effectively and permanently banned in closed and public spaces, tobacco should be too. From food hygiene, to making people wear seat-belts, we have seen various civic improvements be made in the last year. “No Smoking” should be the next one.