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Checks stressed on cigarette sale to minors


May 28, 2019

Islamabad : The prime minister’s focal person for tobacco control, Babar bin Atta, called for strict checks on the sale of cigarettes to check the use of tobacco by children.

Addressing a ceremony organised by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child on the effects of tobacco on health here, the premier's focal person regretted that Pakistan was among 15 countries with the heavy burden of tobacco-related health issues.

"Around 1000-1200 Pakistani children between the ages of 6-15 years start smoking every day," he said, adding that youths aged below 25 who made the country's 60 per cent population either have a high incidence of tobacco addiction or are at the risk of it.

Babar bin Atta said tax reforms and strict checks were needed to check the sale of cigarettes to minors.

He regretted that the healthcare burden, which was Rs143 billion compared to the Rs83 billion revenue generated by the country every year, led to the loss to the federal government's money.

Executive Director of the SPARC Sajjad Ahmad Cheema said cultural and social habits fascinating minors. He said tobacco companies were targeting the markets of minors and women to expand their future markets by expanding the business.

Sajjad Cheema highlighted the crucial role of the anti-smoking campaign reducing the health risks in schools and colleges. "We have been working with government and civil society to increase the taxes on tobacco products to condemn the smoking habits in youngsters.

"There are laws to control tobacco sales for minors to promote healthy lifestyles. Reduced smoking results in better health and decrease in the government's health budget," he said.

The SPARC chief said the e-cigarettes were as harmful and destructive for the human body and society as the regular cigarettes and that advocacy was necessary against tobacco.

Colonel (r) Azhar Saleem, CEO of the HDF, shared the ‘Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance, 2002’ which includes measures to stop people from smoking on public, ban on access to tobacco products near educational institutes and restriction on the sale of cigarettes to those who are under 18.

He said no complaint had been registered against the violators under the law.

Ch. Sana Ullah Ghuman of the Pakistan Heart Association said the passive smoking is deemed equally dangerous for youth and minors.

Worldwide, it is estimated 40 % of children up to the age of 14 are exposed to passive smoking, which causes 600,000 death across the globe. The passive smoking silent feature has been associated with upper and lower respiratory tract infections and bronchial asthma in children leading to serious lungs diseases e.g. tuberculosis.

"The health risks are widely known but still the use of Tobacco is common throughout the world, especially in developing countries like Pakistan. While Tobacco products sales to minors are banned in Pakistan.