Sunday July 14, 2024

Malicious campaign to hurt anti-tobacco narrative

April 09, 2024
This representational image shows a man smoking. — AFP/File
This representational image shows a man smoking. — AFP/File

Islamabad: Serious concerns have been raised by public health activists over persistent attempts of the tobacco industry to derail tobacco control efforts in the country.

This longstanding tactic by the tobacco industry to disrupt tobacco control efforts, particularly during pre-budget months, has once again come under scrutiny by public health advocates. According to activists, “The tobacco industry’s misleading campaigns aim to distract the public, especially youth, policymakers, media, and the government of Pakistan from its ulterior motive: profit at the expense of public health.”

Expressing serious over the widespread dissemination of false statements by the tobacco industry, the health experts said that the propaganda was only aimed to serve to conceal the harm caused to the people of Pakistan. The tobacco industry has spared no effort to expand its business while jeopardizing the future of Pakistani youth and children by enticing them with its harmful products.

These efforts include attempts to block or weaken tobacco control measures such as taxes on cigarettes, smoke-free laws, sales to minors, and promotional and advertising restrictions. The tobacco industry’s efforts to divert attention from public health initiatives include using celebrities and social media to attract youth with falsified claims, spreading false statistics and myths to downplay the harm caused by their products, and most recently maligning government departments and officials who support tobacco control.

These attempts are driven by their economic interests in maintaining and expanding tobacco sales, despite the well-established health risks associated with tobacco use. However, public health advocates, researchers, and policymakers continue to work to counter these efforts and implement evidence-based strategies to reduce tobacco use and its impact on public health.

Tobacco control remains a critical issue in Pakistan, with smoking-related illnesses imposing a significant burden on healthcare systems and contributing to preventable deaths. Despite being a signatory to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the number of smokers in Pakistan has reached up to 31 million. The cheap and easy affordability of tobacco means approximately 1200 children start smoking every day, and nearly 170,000 lose their lives every year due to tobacco-induced diseases.