Tuesday April 16, 2024

Call to regularise less harmful tobacco products

By Our Correspondent
December 12, 2022

LAHORE:Expressing concern about the unregulated spread of vaping products, tobacco control advocates have demanded that the federal government should bring in smart regulations that should keep these products out of reach of children.

Still, these should remain easily accessible to those who want to quit cigarette smoking. According to media reports, the Federal Cabinet Committee for Disposal of Legislative Cases (CCLC) is reviewing a Federal Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation’s (NHSR&C) draft statutory regulatory order (SRO) to regulate RRPs (Reduced Risk Products) including E-cigarette, Heat-Not-Burn tobacco products (HTPs), vaping.

Headed by the federal law minister, CCLC also has finance, interior, commerce, and communications ministers as its members. The CCLC examines the proposed law or regulation with reference to the constitution and government policy and make recommendation to the federal cabinet.

International scientific researchers have found RRPs substantially safer than conventional combustible cigarettes. As a result, many developed countries have adopted them as cessation aids for those who want to quit cigarette smoking. This aim is to reduce disease burden from the health system.

Welcoming the NHSR&C move, QBAL, a health policy research organisation, states that with this, NHSR&C will be adopting the missing harm reduction strategies from World Health Organization’s (WHO) tobacco control.

Pakistan is a signatory to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which states that "tobacco control" means a range of supply, demand, and harm reduction strategies that aim to improve the health of a population by eliminating or reducing their consumption of tobacco products and exposure to tobacco smoke.

To date, Pakistan has only focused on demand reduction measures. Now it's time that through smart regulation, to further health rights of the people, harm reduction strategies should also be incorporated in tobacco control," says QBAL. RRPs regulation is one such measure.

Across the globe, alternative and less harmful tobacco products are being regularised under various laws and policies. The countries which regulate the use of alternative tobacco products include Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, England, Estonia, Fiji, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Luxemburg, Maldives, Malta, Moldova, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Scotland, Senegal, Seychelles, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United States, and Wales. This shows that most of the world is moving towards regulating alternative tobacco products.

Overall, regulating alternative and innovative tobacco products is still evolving. It is important to look at the case of Japan. Almost 72pc of smokers switched to IQOS (I quit ordinary smoking) products, achieving a 7 out of 10 conversion rate among adult smokers.

Pakistan needs to provide cessation to around 15 million of its adult population who smoke combustible cigarettes. The report, 'The Economic Cost of Tobacco Induced Diseases in Pakistan-2021', released by PIDE, records that the total costs attributable to all smoking-related diseases and deaths in Pakistan for 2019 are Rs 615.07 billion ($3.85 billion). The indirect costs (morbidity and mortality) make up 70 percent of the total cost.

"Smoking-attributable total direct and indirect cost of cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases amount to a total of Rs437.76 billion ($2.74 billion), which is 3.65 times higher than the overall tax revenue from the tobacco industry (120 billion in 2019)," PIDE estimates.